Saturday, March 30, 2013

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia

This Friday I visited the collection of the Barnes Foundation in its new home in Philadelphia. Thank you, oldest daughter.

I visited this wonderful collection many times when it was in its original home in Merion, PA.  I think the transplant was a success.

First of all, the new location will allow many more people to see the art. In Merion, local zoning severely limited the number of visitors per week. It looks like about four times as many will be able to visit in Philadelphia. Based on my experience, the current number of visitors does not significantly degrade the experience for visitors.

Second, the new location provides more space for both conservation and the educational mission of the foundation.

Third, the new location faithfully recreates the arrangement of the art in individual rooms at Merion at Barnes' death, with great respect for Barnes' quirky juxtaposition of high art and what are often considered the lesser crafts of metalwork and furniture. The most significant differences are better lighting and the replacement of tape on the floor warning you not to stand too close to the paintings with wood inlay. Also, the new site makes it easier to appreciate the Matisse Mural The Dance II in the main hall.

While the new location retains the laconic labels of the original collection, each room also makes available folders with more information based on more recent scholarship. Barnes was sound on the impressionists and later art, but less so on earlier works. For works prior to the 19th century, he often accepted erroneous attribution, accepted copies as originals, accepted 20th century forgeries as authentic and missdated authentic pieces by more than a century.

If impressionistic or post-impressionistic art gives you joy, go to this place.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Why I am glad that you had a good time at the new Barnes Foundations, it does seem to be a voilation of Barnes' wishes. A more honest approach would have been to liquidate the foundations and let a new one take over.