"The Barnes Foundation is the only sane place to see art in America" - Henri Matisse
Well, it used to be. The Barnes Foundation was tucked away in the town of Merion, Pennsylvania and housed literally in Dr. Barnes' beautiful suburban home for about 80 years. After attending medical school at UPenn, Dr. Albert Barnes made a ton of money by discovering a compound used in the prevention of infant blindness. He decided to spend a lot of his fortune on art, and started The Barnes Foundation as a way to promote appreciation of art and art education.
Dr. Barnes has an amazing and priceless (well, 25 billion dollar), art collection with pieces from Picasso, Matisse, Cezanne, Van Gogh, and just about every other notable artist imaginable. What makes his collection different from any other art museum is that he personally chose each piece, and displayed it in his home amongst various pieces decorative pieces of metal, African art, and little chotchkies that he felt in some way were reflected in the fine art.
Enter the controversy: The Barnes Foundation was recently up and moved from Dr. Barnes' home in the suburbs to Philadelphia's museum row. They set up everything as it was originally found in his home, but in a very modern building complete with auditorium, gift shop, and cafeteria. This had many people fuming, because for one they went totally against Dr. Barnes' Indenture of Trust, which explicitly states that the collection remain intact and untouched in Merion. In my opinion, the move has really sucked the soul out of the place. For example, in the original Barnes home Matisse had created a piece that was painted and completely built into the arches of the ceiling. This piece has been transported into the new space, but the heart of the object is gone. On the other hand, one can also argue that bringing all of this fine art into Philly is giving more people the opportunity to view the art, which is a principle of the Barnes Foundation itself.
But in my humble opinion, simply, a little treasure is gone. Take a look below at the new Barnes Foundation, and learn more about the controversy here.
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
The original Barnes Foundation in Merion (via Wikipedia)