The attorney who worked for the Barnes Foundation during its contested and somewhat controversial move from suburban Philadelphia to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in bustling Center City is the victim of an apparent suicide, according to local media reports.
The Philadelphia Inquirer reported Wednesday that Brett Miller, who served as general counsel for the Barnes Foundation, was found dead this past weekend in his apartment in Philadelphia’s Old City neighborhood, the paper reported.
The Philadelphia Medical Examiner’s Office listed the cause of death as a self-inflicted gunshot wound.
Miller’s death comes just weeks before the Barnes Foundation is set to officially open its new museum, which is located in close proximity to the Philadelphia Museum of Art.
Derek Gillman, the director of the Barnes Foundation, earlier this week told The Art Newspaper, an online publication, that the foundation’s board of trustees and staff members were “deeply saddened by the tragic loss of our colleague and friend Brett Miller.
“Brett was a hugely valued member of our executive team, and for three years has worked tirelessly to ensure the success of the Foundation. He will be greatly missed. We offer heartfelt condolence to his family.”
According to the art publication’s report, Miller began his work as general counsel to the Barnes Foundation in November 2009. He had received his law degree from the University of Virginia in 1995 and studied art history as a graduate student at New York University’s Institute of Fine Arts and at Columbia University.
The article says Miller had also worked for a period of time as associate curator of collections at the Norton Museum in West Palm Beach, FL. Miller also served as a post-graduate law clerk in the general counsel’s office at the Museum of Modern Art in 1995.
In his statement to the publication, Gillman said he doesn’t know of many other attorneys who have a combined expertise in museum legal issues and art history and museum practice.
Miller was 47 years old at the time of his death.
Miller worked for the Barnes Foundation during a somewhat difficult period for the group, which, according to its website, was founded in 1922 to promote and advance art education and the appreciation of fine arts.
The organization was named for Albert C. Barnes and his wife, Laura.
Albert Barnes was a native Philadelphian who lived during the late 1800s and early 1900s.
Barnes became a serious art collector, and many of his collected works were housed in a facility in Merion, Pa., just outside of Philadelphia.
When Miller joined the Barnes Foundation as general counsel in 2009, the group was preparing to move Albert Barnes’ art collection to a planned facility in downtown Philadelphia.
Opponents, however, fought the move, claiming that Barnes wanted his collection to remain in suburban Merion.
The Friends of the Barnes, a group that opposed the moving of the collection, petitioned Montgomery County’s Orphans’ Court last year in an effort to halt the collection’s move to the city, according to news reports.
The court, which handles legal matters involving trusts for nonprofit organizations such as the Barnes Foundation, determined that the advocacy group had no legal standing to be heard in the case, and the museum project moved forward.
Construction on the new Barnes Foundation museum in Philadelphia is nearly complete.
Miller is survived by his wife, Amy, the Inquirer reported. A funeral was apparently scheduled for Thursday in Maryland.