If you are anywhere near Philadelphia… Get Thee to the Barnes Foundation, to see the rather incredible collection amassed by Albert C. Barnes and always housed, until now, in the original mansion he built for his works of art by Cezanne, Matisse, Picasso and Modigliani, among others.
Audio guides will be available, but really, there is nothing to do here but look at art and think for yourself. The dense clusters and juxtapositions provide more than enough to work with: a visual deluge of forms — in different mediums and materials, from widely spread times and places — that make looking and thinking reflexive, rapturous and liberating.
Whenever I travel I like to visit museums I otherwise wouldn’t get a chance to see, and those begun by individuals like Barnes (the Frick in New York is another), who were titans of business and titans of philanthropy as well, are among my favorite places.
Museums have always provided opportunities for quiet contemplation – sometimes coupled with creative and artistic shelter from stormy transitional times – and always offer bountiful moments of education, revelation, inspiration and awe. The Barnes is an unusual place, moved in a public outcry from its original location to a spanking new architectural space designed by Todd Williams and Billie Tsien.
Great things need to be preserved, and honoring the wishes of the person(s) who made them great is important. But accessibility is also important and sometimes moving forward is the only way to preserve, conserve…and…bring them to a wider audience. This is the case with the Barnes collection, which I can’t wait to see in its new space.
If you can’t get there…at least look at the slide show within the attached article by Roberta Smith, who publicly admits to her own skepticism abou the move…that’s why I like her. I can’t imagine the world with museums. I don’t want to. Thank you Mr. Barnes.