Chairman of Barnes board stepping down

The chairman of the board for the Barnes Foundation has stepped down.

Dr. Bernard Watson, who orchestrated the controversial decision to move the Barnes’ collection of modernist paintings from Lower Merion to Philadelphia’s Parkway, began as board chair in 1999.

When he came in, the idea of moving did not exist, even as a whisper, he said. It was only after he saw a dire financial situation that momentum for the move started to build.

As soon as the Barnes raised $150 million to move into a new building, and raised an additional $50 million for an endowment, he said his work was finished.

“That was a good time for me to take a look around and see what was happening, and look at what happened the year after that — we were in good shape,” said Watson. “It was time for me to step down and let somebody else play the leading roll. Fifteen years is a long time, as long l’ve been on any board in my life.”

Watson will remain a member of the board until 2015.  Joseph Neubauer, a regional philanthropist and former CEO of Aramark, is the new board chairman.

“The board clearly sees a need to expand the educational programs, and to have special exhibitions, which we could not do in the other location,” said Watson. “That’s what the board is talking about, and I’m sure they will come up with a long-range plan to carry the Barnes forward for the next 50-60 years.”

Disclosure: The Neubauer Family Fund has supported WHYY.

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