Contributed by Jonathan Lerner
At a private preview for the new Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, not everyone was happy that the collection had been moved from the founder’s historic home.
The new venue is crisply geometrical and soothingly minimal, while richly and subtly textured. A lot of attention was paid to bringing in natural light. Besides Impressionists, Old Masters and early Modernists, Barnes collected early American furniture, ceramics and metalwork, and Native American and African art. Many African motifs were incorporated into the design of the new building.
The structure that houses the art is totally of the moment, but the collection galleries inside exactly reproduce those of their original setting, including Barnes’ eccentric and didactic “ensemble” arrangements of the works. At first, I was overwhelmed by the density and quantity, and then, it slowly dawned on me that I was in the presence of greatness.
Jonathan Lerner writes on architecture and design.