Wednesday, September 1, 2010

The Green Arcade and the Barnes Foundation.

The Green Arcade is a local book store - in fact, it's just right up the street from where I live. Their focus is on the environment, ecology, progressive politics and history, both local and international. They host a lot of interesting events and tonight's event is no exception:
Wednesday, September 1st! @ 8 PM
Please come by for an informal, spontaneous theatrical happening at The Green Arcade. Just yesterday some good friends met New Yorkers Bina and her traveling companion Kevin Martin at Caffe Puccini and one thing led to another, which led to a call to the Arcade and so you are invited for a glass of wine and...  
A reading (with the help of Kevin and some other invited guests) from a work-in-progress from her 25th play, 'STREAM OF CONSCIOUSNESS OF SINGING BIRDS," which opens December 31ST at TNC in New York.

The Art of the Steal
Liz Hager (of Venetian Red) has a post up about the documentary on the Barnes Collection and it's eventual fate. The movie, "The Art of the Steal" makes no attempt to be balanced. It chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art valued at more than $25 billion. The Barnes Foundation is the testament to a remarkable man’s love of art and his willingness to use his checkbook, his wiles and, on occasion, a bit of discrete blackmail,  to amass an awe-inspiring collection of Impressionist and Early Modern art. His attempt to control it, even after death, is what led, first to a fiscal disaster and then, to the current state of affairs. Google "Barnes Collection" and you will get an encyclopedia of links.

When I was a young art student, living in New York, a couple of my friends and I got permission to visit the collection. We rented a junker car and went down, naturally on a very tight budget. Although we had the letter of permission with us, we were still held up for two days before we were allowed in.

When we were finally permitted in, entering the museum was an ordeal. The guard had to make a call to confirm again that our names were  on the proper list. Next, we were directed to pick up our tickets from another booth at the garden side of the house. This in hand, we had to walk around the museum once again in order to enter though the main door, where our tickets were (again!) closely inspected. I was exhausted by the time we were allowed in.

As a bunch of multi-racial, poverty stricken art students we were supposed to be exactly the ones that Barnes had in mind to view his collection. We were young and determined to see it though but older, less stubborn viewers would have given up and gone home. But Barnes' desire to control his collection extended to all aspects of the art - even the CD produced years later would not allow one to save an image to the HD or even print out a copy (which I learned to my chagrin).

The collection, the grounds and the house were gorgeous but even I could see that some of the art was in need of cleaning, if not repair (circa 1964). Although admission got easier in later years with reservations available via the Internet, special bus tours and package deals, it was still not a museum where the average person could get to, buy a ticket and walk in.

The chicanery involved with moving the collection from his villa to a new museum makes fascinating reading and there are no really "good guys" involved in the saga. At least, the art isn't going to disappear any time soon into a billionaire's vault. It will up be on the walls of a new museum in downtown Philadelphia and more accessible to the public.

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