Sunday, July 17, 2011

The Barnes Foundation

Collector as Artist: The Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation, an extraordinary collection of art amassed by Albert C. Barnes, has been one of America’s strangest art museums from the day its doors opened in 1925. Barnes’s unique juxtapositions of paintings and objects were intended to help the viewer learn to look closely at art. The original building, in Merion, Pa., closed at the end of June — the collection will be relocated to a new one in Philadelphia next year — but The Times has created an interactive tour of some of the old museum’s highlights

Henri Matisse, Madras Rouge. 1907. from Wikipedia.

From a couple of articles that I've written - various commentaries on the collection and the controversy over the move:

Barnes Website with an online database:

As with so many things about the Barnes Museum, it's got major glitches. A simple search for "Matisse" brought up pages of "image not available." When an image is posted, it can't be enlarged. So even now, Barnes is preventing the public from seeing "his" pictures - just as he did when he was alive. The CD put out by the Foundation several years ago had restricted access. You could not save an image to your HD or print it out. All you could do was look - and $40 in 1995 was a pretty hefty price for poorly photographed pixels.


lotusgreen said...

hi nancy--

what a breath-taking collection! thanks so much for the introduction to it.

and yes! if you're better, come for tea! (or whatever)


namastenancy said...

So, what's your schedule?

lotusgreen said...

other than this coming thursday, every afternoon is free!

A Cuban In London said...

Interesting collection and no less interesting information about the Barnes Museum.

Many thanks.

Greetings from London.

Save the Barnes said...

Nancy, I was searching for some iconic images from the Barnes Foundation collection and came upon your blogpost about the Barnes. Hope you don't mind an outsider putting two cents in. Dr. Barnes didn't want his collection to be a place for the privileged class, so he did what he could to keep "society" types out. The current Board is trying to move the collection to Philadelphia so it can be a cash cow for the tourism industry. Since getting permission for The Move, they have more than tripled the price of admission to the galleries, from $5 to $17. The price on the Parkway would be at least $20 plus $8/hour parking. I got that info from a survey the Barnes Foundation sent to members. The Barnes Foundation has never applied to the Township for a change in the Zoning Ordinance that guides visitation to the Barnes Foundation. But a citizens' group did apply and won a change in the Ordinance that would permit at least 145,000 plus school groups.

Friends of the Barnes Foundation have petitioned the Court to re-open hearings. On August 1, Judge Ott will hear Oral Arguments and the Friends' lawyer will show the many ways in which the Court was misled and he will lay out the truth behind the massive deception of the earlier hearings. The story deceit begins with lies about access and continues to the lie about financial sustainability of the Barnes in its historic Merion home. Hope you'll stay tuned.;

By the way, I am looking for iconic images so we can take posters of the artworks to the Courthouse on August 1. It's going to be something and yes, we do intend to win the Court's approval of our petition for new hearings.

namastenancy said...

Re: the Barnes: I am certainly happy to give equal space to all sides in this controversy. Unfortunately, my experience - as a poor student back in the 60's was not a happy one. My friends and I had rented a junk car to drive from NY where we were attending school to Merton. We thought we'd gotten permission in advance but the guard at the gate would not let us in. It took several hours and numerous phone calls for us to gain access. That night, we slept in the car since we didn't have money for a motel and went back in the following morning. I thought the collection was gorgeous, poorly maintained and the space pretty inaccessible. I know that things changed in the following years but I can't say I'm on anybody's side. The original trustees of the collection looted the treasury (so to speak). I'm not sure that they left the city with any viable alternative. The museum is a cash cow - yes, I am sure it is. Show me any American museum except those buttressed by huge endowments (like the Getty) that aren't.