November 5/365 The Barnes Foundation

There was an art museum designed by a collector, inside a building designed for the art. Somewhat crazy Albert C. Barnes, inspired and stubborn, made sure that it would stay exactly as he designed, even after his death. Every piece frozen in relation to other pieces; every room unchanged. Admission required a reservation, and days were limited in order to allow students primary access. This museum celebrated exploration over adoration.

But there wasn’t enough parking. The wealthy neighborhood didn’t like the traffic. The collection was priceless.

It broke my heart when they “recreated” The Barnes Museum, without its soul.

The original museum in Merion, PA, was perhaps the best museum I ever wandered through. No room was particularly large, and art was arranged much like in Gertrude Stein’s salon – everywhere! If you want to learn all the back-stabbing, grand-standing, legal wrangling that brought about the shiny new museum in Philadelphia, Jed Perl’s article in The New Republic explains it all.


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