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The newly relocated Barnes Collection


Kevin Slater
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I just got back from viewing the Barnes Collection in its new location in downtown Philly. I saw it when it traveled to the National Gallery in DC nearly 20 years ago and again last year in its old location in Marion. This new space is by far the best venue to view the collection. It's wonderfully accessible and beautifully designed. "The Barnes has more works of art from Cézanne, Renoir, and Matisse than anywhere else in the world (including all of France). And not just in terms of quantity but true masterpieces." (http://phillystylemag.com/living/articles/a-moving-masterpiece) It, the Rodin Museum and the truly impressive Philadelphia Museum of Art are all located on the same block. What a great art destination Philly has become!

 

Kevin Slater

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I live just five minutes away from the new Barnes Foundation, and walk by almost every day. It's been interesting to watch the construction over the past two years. I bought a membership in a last few days, so I will not get the see the paintings in their new location until this Sunday, May 27.

 

Beginning next week the museum is open to everyone, members and non-members. Last time I looked there were some tickets available for non-members on Memorial Day weekend.

 

Thanks for starting this topic, Kevin.

 

The best things about the story in the Times is the improvement in the lighting. The last times I visited the Barnes "campus" in Lower Merion the lighting was not great (but then my eyes are not what they used to be either).

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What I find interesting is how a court can say it's okay to move an art collection even though a will says do not move the art collection.

 

This doesn't bother me as much as it does everyone else. There's a notion that one isn't the owner of artwork, just a caretaker. That a dead guy's wishes were keeping these amazingly important works away from the general good for so long doesn't strike me as appropriate. In all the debate around the breaking of the trust, no one evoked the imminent domain argument, but I wish they had. In any case, alls well that ends well. Great efforts were endeavored to display the art just as it had been in the old location. The rooms were precisely reproduced, right down to the ornamental hinges surrounding the pieces, masterpieces above the doors, etc. All that has changed is the location and accessibility. And now the neighbors in Marion don't have to get their knickers in a wad that folk are standing in front of their lawns, god forbid.

 

Kevin Slater

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There's a notion that one isn't the owner of artwork, just a caretaker. That a dead guy's wishes were keeping these amazingly important works away from the general good for so long doesn't strike me as appropriate.

 

In any case, alls well that ends well. Great efforts were endeavored to display the art just as it had been in the old location. The rooms were precisely reproduced, right down to the ornamental hinges surrounding the pieces, masterpieces above the doors, etc. All that has changed is the location and accessibility.

 

Many more people will be able to see these amazing paintings now without worrying about reservations, finding the Barnes in the Philadelphia suburbs and limited hours. The new location at 20th Street and the Benj. Franklin Parkway is an easy cab ride from 30th Street Station (Amtrak). For those who drive, the Barnes Foundation is virtually in Center City, just a few blocks north of 20th and Market Streets. Warning: parking may be a problem.

 

Didn't the Lower Merion neighbors change their minds when it became a possibility the Barnes would actually move to Center City?

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Warning: parking may be a problem.

 

 

MAY?! I always advise people to either walk out the Parkway or take the Phlash bus to the Rodin, since street parking is usually difficult to impossible.

 

I'm looking forward to going to the Barnes the next time I am in Philly. It's been several years since the last time I went to the location in Lower Merion, but my memory is that the way Barnes wanted things hung was actually one of the drawbacks of the old place, so I'm curious to see if I still have the same impression in the new building. Although there are many great works in the collection, I also questioned Barnes selectivity, since it seemed to me that there was a good deal of dross among the treasures--he seemed to indiscriminately purchase almost anything by certain artists.

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Thanks for the update Kevin on the Barnes collection move to downtown Philly. It's on my must-see list and I am planning a day trip to Philly via the Mega or Bolt bus to visit the museum and also the Phildelphia Museum of Art while I am in town.

 

ED

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Thanks for the update Kevin on the Barnes collection move to downtown Philly. It's on my must-see list and I am planning a day trip to Philly via the Mega or Bolt bus to visit the museum and also the Phildelphia Museum of Art while I am in town.

 

ED

 

Don't miss the Rodin Museum right next door, also.

 

Kevin Slater

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This doesn't bother me as much as it does everyone else. There's a notion that one isn't the owner of artwork, just a caretaker. That a dead guy's wishes were keeping these amazingly important works away from the general good for so long doesn't strike me as appropriate. In all the debate around the breaking of the trust, no one evoked the imminent domain argument, but I wish they had. In any case, alls well that ends well. Great efforts were endeavored to display the art just as it had been in the old location. The rooms were precisely reproduced, right down to the ornamental hinges surrounding the pieces, masterpieces above the doors, etc. All that has changed is the location and accessibility. And now the neighbors in Marion don't have to get their knickers in a wad that folk are standing in front of their lawns, god forbid.

 

Kevin Slater

 

I'll just agree to disagree. This was a case of collusion among big money, big politics, big philanthropy, and a corrupt court system. They all colluded to circumvent what the incredible man who put together this collection wanted. It was shameful. It shouldn't have been allowed to happen just because Philadelphia wanted the art.

 

I'm afraid I simply can't get past that. I saw the collection in that perfect location where it belonged many times. I cried the last time I went knowing it would never be the same.

 

The whole thing was DISGUSTING. I hope all involved rot and burn in hell for all eternity.

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Kevin,

 

Wow. You want "eminent domain" invoked to steal propertly from others for no other reason than a bunch of rich people wanted it that way? Boy, that's scary. And when were the works ever kept "from the general good?" Never. If you made the effort you could see that works of art at any time.

 

No, they weren't displayed in a way that make them a million person a year tourist attraction -- a Disneyland of art like most museums have become. But it was Mr. Barnes' choice and that should have been respected. It was his right. No one had any business interferring in that.

 

What's the point of trusts and wills if they can be broken so easily when big money and politics get together and decide "heck we don't like that."

 

He had the foresight to collect these works when others weren't. When the Philly museum had no interest in these works. Now, AFTER they decide to get on the boat late they want the art. This was theft, pure and simple. It shouldn't be condoned or supported in any way.

 

If it can happen to the Barnes, it can happen to anyone.

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Another Point of View

 

If you made the effort you could see that works of art at any time.

 

 

The Barnes Foindation was forced to open its galleries to the public in 1961 as the result of a court order. Before that order, only people approved by Dr. Barnes, or after his death the Foundation, were able to see the collection. Most people who live in Philadelphia know that author James Michener was turned down by Dr. Barnes. Michener only gained admission by posing as an illiterate steelworker.

 

It is true that after 1960 if you made the effort you could see the collection, but not before without special permission, or being very inventive like Michener.

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The Barnes Foindation was forced to open its galleries to the public in 1961 as the result of a court order. Before that order, only people approved by Dr. Barnes, or after his death the Foundation, were able to see the collection. Most people who live in Philadelphia know that author James Michener was turned down by Dr. Barnes. Michener only gained admission by posing as an illiterate steelworker.

 

It is true that after 1960 if you made the effort you could see the collection, but not before without special permission, or being very inventive like Michener.

And even afterwards it still required some planning, because the number of persons allowed into the house each time it was open was strictly limited.

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Question of Money

 

Was there also a problem about financing?

 

Dr. Barnes was generous in his donation of art works, but he did not leave sufficient money to maintain the collection in perpetuity. The point had been reached where there was no longer sufficient money to pay for utilities, salaries, security, insurance, upkeep on the building and art works, etc. The Foundation would have had to close down and close the museum and just leave it stand to deteriorate or auction everything off and liquidate. (Dr. Barnes' will prohibited the sale of any individual works to raise money.) They tried to find someone or some group in Merion who would underwrite their expenses, but they were unsuccessful. ( If I read the reports correctly. : - ) )

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The Barnes Foindation was forced to open its galleries to the public in 1961 as the result of a court order. Before that order, only people approved by Dr. Barnes, or after his death the Foundation, were able to see the collection. Most people who live in Philadelphia know that author James Michener was turned down by Dr. Barnes. Michener only gained admission by posing as an illiterate steelworker.

 

It is true that after 1960 if you made the effort you could see the collection, but not before without special permission, or being very inventive like Michener.

 

And so what? It was his property. Should anyone be able to get a court order to see anything that belongs to anyone else at any time they wish? Because that's exactly what happened.

 

As a gay man, who has had to have all sorts of wills and trusts over the years in order to protect me, my property, and my partner I find it very CHILLING that a group of people could get together and petition the court and break those wills and trusts. It could happen to me. I believe that people's final wishes should be respected and that courts shouldn't interfere. It's not right, fair, or moral. Period.

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Was there also a problem about financing?

 

Dr. Barnes was generous in his donation of art works, but he did not leave sufficient money to maintain the collection in perpetuity. The point had been reached where there was no longer sufficient money to pay for utilities, salaries, security, insurance, upkeep on the building and art works, etc. The Foundation would have had to close down and close the museum and just leave it stand to deteriorate or auction everything off and liquidate. (Dr. Barnes' will prohibited the sale of any individual works to raise money.) They tried to find someone or some group in Merion who would underwrite their expenses, but they were unsuccessful. ( If I read the reports correctly. : - ) )

 

That's not true. Read the actual case history. Watch the documentary on what really happened. The galleries were ALLOWED to deteoriate so that there would be NO OTHER CHOICE than to move. All the big local philanthropic orgs were willing to step in and pay any amount necessary but ONLY IF THEY MOVED. It was grotesque.

 

Dr. Barnes was someone who was never accepted by the establishment. He thumbed his nose at them. He even offered the Philly Museum his art but they treated him like garbage and so he made the decision he did. This was the establishment's revenge many years later.

 

I can't believe that any person -- yet alone a gay person who should understand what it means to have these kinds of legal protection for their property -- would condone this in any way, shape or form.

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Timed Reservations?

 

Previously, to visit the Barnes, you needed a timed reservation. Recent posts here have me confused. One seemed to say that there were still timed reservations ("there are some times open for Memorial weekend") and another said one of the advantages of the new location is that there are no longer timed reservations.

 

Could someone please respond specifically: is it still necessary to have a reservation for a specific time? Can they accommodate unlimited numbers of people in those small rooms and doorways at the new location?

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Ticket Reservations

 

Could someone please respond specifically: is it still necessary to have a reservation for a specific time? Can they accommodate unlimited numbers of people in those small rooms and doorways at the new location?

 

Yes, you still need a reservation. There is a daily ticket chart on The Barnes Foundation website, take a look yourself. As of about ten minutes ago, there are tickets available for all days (except Mondays) after Memorial Day weekend, and even a few left for this weekend, including Monday when the museum is usually closed.

 

I have not been inside yet, but I assume the reason for the reservations is the museum can only accomodate a certain number of people at one time.

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This doesn't bother me as much as it does everyone else.

 

I have a feeling had you purchased the art as a serious collector and left an iron-clad will stating "that the art never be sold, loaned or moved," you might muster some bother.

 

Don't miss the outstanding documentary, "The Art of the Steal." The true story is amazing and full of agony, and it's all about greed.

http://www.nytimes.com/2010/02/21/movies/21barnes.html?pagewanted=all

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Not Very Good

 

The film is not very interesting or worthwhile. It obviously takes the view that the collection was moved illegally and is highly polemic throughout. It is not a reasoned or balanced examination of the situation. It is so heavy-handed that even the head of the Barnes Foundation said “The film was full of unsubstantiated allegations and very one-sided.” No one from the Barnes Foundation cooperated. The New York Times article is a brief review of the documentary film, not an examination of the Barnes' situation. [The two articles in the NYTimes within the past week about the opening of the Barnes-Philadelphia Museum have both been highly complimentary and positive about the move.]

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A few more opinions...

 

http://movies.nytimes.com/2010/02/26/movies/26artof.html

 

"though Mr. Argott stacks the deck heavily, and while his movie is, like many documentaries these days, overly indebted to Errol Morris (enough with the Philip Glass already), “The Art of the Steal” is often very fine. Serving as his own cinematographer and working with the editors Demian Fenton and Judah-Lev Dickstein, Mr. Argott marshals a wealth of archival and new material, expertly weaving interviews together with still photographs, home movies, television reports, newspaper clippings and even charts. One weakness is the too-brief, tantalizing peeks inside the Barnes. Yet, like the movie as a whole, this limitation comes with dividends: it made me want to hop on a plane to Philadelphia as soon as possible to see the original before it’s emptied."

 

Manohla Dargis

 

 

http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20100310/REVIEWS/100319996

 

"It is perfectly clear exactly what Barnes specified in his will. It was drawn up by the best legal minds. It is clear that what happened to his collection was against his wishes. It is clear that the city fathers acted in obviation of those wishes, and were upheld in a court of appeals. What is finally clear: It doesn't matter a damn what your will says if you have $25 billion, and politicians and the establishment want it."

 

Roger Ebert

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Even-Handed Opinion from a Philadelphia Newspaper

 

It's only fair to provide a link to a story about the new Barnes Foundation in yesterday's Philadelphia Weekly, which is fair to both sides of the dispute.

 

http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/arts-and-culture/152633275.html

 

Question for RockHard: Did you ever visit the Barnes Foundation in Lower Merion?

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Question for RockHard: Did you ever visit the Barnes Foundation in Lower Merion?

 

Yes. Several times. I loved the place.

 

My opinion on this is skewed in defense of Dr. Barnes because of my own personal experience with collecting art and being named in a loved one's will. In my case, the Executor changed the owner's intent to accommodate his weaknesses. I was told by three lawyers I could prove my case in a court of law, but not without a costly lawsuit and a highly emotional fight. The amount of money wasn't significant enough to me to warrant a costly lawsuit, and I'm no fan of UGLY, emotional pain.

 

My loyalty, love, and devotion for the will holders was put to a test and without the lawsuit, I feel I failed them.

 

Dr. Barnes had enemies, and he had very strong opinions about his art collection. Unfortunately, Dr. Barnes did not have a lengthy, reliable resource to oversee his collection into a secure, distant future.

 

Yes, Barnes' art will look fantastic in this new location. Yes, many more art lovers will get to see this collection well into the future. Yes, the collection will be protected for many years to come.

 

An argument can be made that the art was more important than its former owner, his will, his feelings towards his enemies, and the inability for the foundation to protect it into the future. But Barnes' enemies now have control over it, and they get to make substantial sums with that control.

 

Given my personal experience with settling wills, I agree with Roger Ebert: "What is finally clear: It doesn't matter a damn what your will says if you have $25 billion, and politicians and the establishment want it."

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Visiting The Barnes Foundation

 

I visited the new Barnes Foundation on Sunday. The museum overbooked, so I had to wait a while to get into the galleries. I attended a lecture in the auditorium while waiting. There is more on all the features of the building beyond the galleries below.

 

The first thing I noticed in the galleries was the superb lighting. The lighting allowed me to see things in many paintings I had never seen before, especially paintings by Renoir, Soutine, Matisse, Piccaso, Pascin and Cezanne. But, virtually all the paintings benefit including those by old masters...Titian, El Greco et al. I particularly liked a tapestry by Miro, and another by Picasso---hangings I barely looked at before. Memorial Day Weekend was so busy that people were only allowed into the galleries for an hour. That was enough time to visit each room very quickly, and pick several rooms in which to dig deeper.

 

I mentioned the lecture which took place in an auditorium. There's also a library, two restaurants, a gallery for special exhibits, plenty of green space and plants---and probably a dozen other things that I missed. It's all a little overwhelming, and very far from Dr. Barnes' vision of the Foundation as a place of education and quiet study.

 

Dr. Barnes had advanced degrees from the University of Pennsylvania and Columbia University. He changed his mind back and forth often about giving control of the Foundation to Penn in his will. His final choice of Lincoln Univ. instead did not turn out well, partly because of Lincoln's choice of president/chairman of the board.

 

But, I have mixed feelings about Penn also, because the university has such overwhelming power and presence in Philadelphia now--something Barnes could have predicted when he wrote his final will. I should mention that I am a very strong supporter of the university myself.

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