Monday, March 28th, 2011

The Barnes Foundation and the Death of Fun

I know you were busily reading the newspaper cover to cover this weekend, so you won't have missed the exceedingly important piece by Nicolai Ouroussoff on the Barnes Foundation, the Getty and the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum: three museums built in America by wackos that have since (after their founders' deaths, of course) been taken astray of their intentions by their current managers. The Barnes (which has on exhibit more Cezannes than you can see in all of France, should that be a thing you would ever want) is currently in the last gasps of a long legal fight, which seems to be ending badly for the people who would like it not to be uprooted and moved to downtown Philadelphia. Everything interesting becomes made dull for profit! Attend the Barnes before June 30th, if you can! And then, join me in never visiting it again.

10 Comments / Post A Comment

boyofdestiny (#1,243)

"In order to comply with Barnes’s will, which stipulates that the collection has to remain exactly as he hung it, the foundation’s board agreed to create identical galleries in the new building."

I'm sure "exactly as he hung it" doesn't mean "in a building that didn't even exist when he died."

BadUncle (#153)

You want eccentric? Go to the Pritikin mansion in San Francisco, and gaze in wonder at a collection of forged masters, musical installations and presidential cufflinks. Then drop a hit of e and go for a swim in the pool.

6h057 (#1,914)

Fuck the Main Line.

There, I said it.

Matt (#26)


I'm all for visiting the Barnes Foundation as Barnes originally intended it, but given the choice between driving the institution into bankruptcy and moving the collection to Philly in a close-ish approximation to the founder's original intentions, I can't say they've made the wrong decision. See Jeffrey Toobin in The New Yorker from January 2002 (subscription required).

Maybe this is a case of false choices imposed by mismanagement or "This is why we can't have nice things," but if the wealthy eccentrics in question didn't actually leave enough money behind to maintain their collections in accordance with their idiosyncratic instructions, something's got to give.

ep (#8,509)

Moving the collection is absolutely the wrong decision. The "bankruptcy vs. moving" argument has always been a misleading one. The truth is that the Barnes collection where it lives is one of the most famous, monetarily valuable (worth somewhere in the single digit billions?) and aesthetically priceless collections in America, and if a director/board can't raise money for operations costs all you have is a simple case of extreme incompetence in the development department. But that's not the case here. What you have is a powerful group of city elites with real estate and tourism dreams (they're also avaricious philistines, by mere coincidence) determined to seize the control of this spectacular asset, and there simply isn't anybody with the power or position to stop them. Their success has been a complete tragedy.

amuselouche (#448)

Given that I have still haven't managed to recover from the MOMA re-design, I don't really see this working out well for me.

GailPink (#9,712)

Very coincidentally, I just this past Saturday watched the amazing documentary, The Art of The Steal, which is about the Barnes Collection tragedy. It broke my heart.

Vulpes (#946)

I went to the Barnes a few months ago, and it is AMAZING. It's seriously overwhelming; you need to see it more than once, which I sadly won't get to do before it moves. It's also a gorgeous building in a gorgeous setting.

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