Still 8 Days: No “Historic Object” Nomination

A few weeks ago, Mayor John Street said he wanted to designate The Gross Clinic as an “historic object” using an untested and controversial ordinance.  Today, we hear that the City has withdrawn that nomination, days before a debate scheduled at The Philadelphia Historical Commission.

What could this mean? 

Could designation have required the painting to remain at Jefferson– making a move to another venue in Philadelphia downright illegal?  Could it be that this announcement foreshadows another announcement that the painting is headed up the steps at Fairmount?

Or, are city lawyers worried that the same legal tactic might be used by, say, Lower Merion to prevent the art works of the Barnes Foundation from crossing City Avenue?

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One Comment on “Still 8 Days: No “Historic Object” Nomination”


  1. My solution would borrow from the efforts to protect open space from development. I would suggest buying the first right of sale for any art work that might be sold in the future with the terms of having the appropriate time to raise funds for such a purchase. All important art will continue to increase in value and if the trend continues some art may cost hundreds of millions in the next ten years.

    Non Profits have laws of governance that are controlled by the State and are different than private individuals. Their directors must meet the interests of their mission as well as the public trust granted them as a tax exempt organization. Schools such as Jefferson receive charitable contributions that allow them to raise funds from many sources. Those contributors get tax breaks on those gifts. The public does have an interest in what is under their stewardship.

    Each State should create a fund to protect it’s cultural heritage. This could include an increase in the funds for purchase of art directly as well as a cultural patrimony rights act that would stop the sudden raiding of art from vulnerable institutions. Valuable art should be treated with the same controls as financial paper (stocks and bonds).


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