The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

I wrote the following blog post more than a year ago. There is no good reason why I never posted it, but now there is an excellent purpose for me to post it.  The following post is one I wrote in January 2011, following a visit to The Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA. Yesterday, I had the honor of attending the press preview of the NEW Barnes Foundation, relocated and entirely refurbished on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Philadelphia. More on Thursday’s experience in my next post, but for now, I’d like to share my original and unaltered post to provide a comparison for my thoughts on yesterday’s visit.

Today a friend and I took a couple hour drive to Merion, PA to visit the Barnes Foundation. For those of you outside the field, built and designed by Dr. Albert C. Barnes, the Foundation houses an amazing collection of paintings and decor.  The travesty is that the board has decided to completely uproot the principles and setting of this art and move it into a modern building in Philly. After discussing the case in several of my classes, with multiple professors, I am still gravely against the move for several reasons.

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The BF case is littered with ethical and legal issues.  A history of corruption, selfishness and politicking are amongst the many reasons why the Barnes is failing today.  Perhaps it was partially poor foresight on the part of the creator, but the majority of the destruction was committed by its very own board members.  At the time of Barnes’ death in 1951, though much had already happened, the battle of the Barnes had just begun. The current board of trustees now has hopes of wiping out the indenture all together, removing all wishes Barnes originally had for his carefully built collection.

This wonderful historic site is being wrenched from its home in Lower Merion Township and moved into the city Barnes so greatly insisted on staying out of, in order to “save” the organization.  Billions of dollars have been given by Foundations and companies to move the Barnes, companies who are not willing to give in order to save the Barnes in its current location.  A new building, unlike the collection’s original home in Merion, will house the collection along with several additional features.

These things aside, the BF contains an astounding collection conservatively valued at over $6 billion and boasts more than 180 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, 18 Rousseaus and 14 Modiglianis. Each room was designed and arranged in a very specific manner by Barnes. Metal works including keys, hinges, clasps etc. adorn the walls amongst the paintings and drawings. Intended as an educational tool, students are meant to be taught within the galleries about appreciating art and understanding aesthetics and design.

A big disappointment of the day was that they had the second floor galleries closed to the public, unbeknownst to us before arriving. Secondly, the staff at the Barnes seem to go out of their way to make the place unwelcoming. I wonder if in a new location staff will be taught to smile.

What wasn’t at all disappointing on Mallary and my’s trip to Philly? An authentic cheesesteak covered in cheez whiz at Geno’s!

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2 responses to “The Barnes Foundation – In Original Review

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