Monday, October 15, 2012

The Barnes Foundation, Philadelphia

Earlier this summer we went to visit our friend Katie(cakes) in Philadelphia. She arranged for us to come and see the $25 billion dollar collection that is The Barnes Foundation. She works in the development office there and I couldn't be more proud.

The museum opened earlier this year and much has been written about it. I was first introduced to the Barnes in the documentary The Art of the Steal at the Charles Theatre here in Baltimore with our dear Katiecakes. I was so upset after seeing the movie. This collector had clearly put everything into his foundation and somehow the wishes and desires of his will were not upheld. It was strange going to this new location, knowing that the man who put together every detail would be flipping in his grave over the news of the move. And still, my heart was full with anticipation and excitement to see the pieces I'd heard so much about. 

Introduction to the collection and arboretum in Marion.

I have tears in my eyes with excitement in this photo. My very first job in Washington, DC was interning at The Phillips Collection in Dupont Circle in 1992 when I was at American University during my museum studies in the arts program. I judge every (EVERY) museum I visit with the Phillips in mind. The thing I really appreciate from that experience is that the Phillips family built a collection from the perspective of the two brothers. The Barnes Collection was created by one man. He was so clear in what he liked and didn't like.  Walking through the space with Katie was like having our own private curator. She gave us some insight into Dr. Barnes' persona.

Appreciation of works of art requires organized effort and systematic study. Art appreciation can no more be absorbed by aimless wandering in galleries than can surgery be learned by casual visits to a hospital. (Dr. Albert C. Barnes)

The art education experience begins outside as you approach the building. River rocks and calm water reflect the stone facade. It's as if you are walking in a Zen garden and about to enter a temple. 

We got a behind the scenes tour of the staff offices.

The air plants in the restaurant were simple and elegant.

Katie had our tickets ready and wanted us to see where we could enjoy lunch at a future date.

The restaurant has a beautiful view of an outdoor garden with a significant drawing that Dr. Barnes created to show how the artwork should be hung. His groupings are legendary. I think Dr. Barnes was probably a little cheeky. While the institution is very serious with some of the heaviest hitting post-impressionist works of art, there is a great sense of humor in how some of the pieces are hung. If I could dine with anyone alive or dead it would be Dr. Barnes, Marjorie Phillips and my great grandparents, George and Nelle Tayloe. I can only imagine the great conversations that would take place around the dinner table at Stone Hill Farm. A girl can dream right.

The gorgeous limestone throughout the building is from the Negev Dessert. 

The outdoor space is breathtaking. The open air "ceiling" has a lofty feeling and at night glows with soft illumination. The herringbone floor was made with re-purposed wood from the Coney Island boardwalk. The build is LEED certified.

The parking lot even has places for cars to charge.

I loved finding this time lapse video of the construction site. Makes me remember the Richard Scary books as a child. I know my (architect) Uncle Johnny would have loved everything about this collection and only wish he were still alive to witness it here in all it's glory.

If you live in or around the Philadelphia region, this weekend there is a cocktail party with live music in the court and DJ on the West Terrace for the Young Professionals. The main tickets are sold out, but you may buy $10 entry fees at the door to get into the party. This means you can't see the collection but you can enjoy the party, light fare and a cash bar. Thank you again Katie for such an incredible tour and your continued friendship. We love your face!!!

1 comment:

An Eye for Detail said...

This is definitely on my wish list! I grew up in the 'burbs of Philly, went to Penn, and almost moved back there two years ago. So now I simply MUST go; thanks for this wonderfully enticing view of the collection! Besides, my 91 yr. old aunt (the one who still goes to Provence each year to paint!) lives in Chestnut Hill!