A Visit to the New Barnes Foundation

The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin)  , Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, oil on canva

The Postman (Joseph-Étienne Roulin), Vincent Van Gogh, 1889, oil on canva

On a recent trip to Philadelphia, I was excited to visit the new downtown location of the Barnes Foundation, which opened in 2012 and houses what is generally considered one of the most compelling collections of modern art in the world.  How it arrived there, on a grand promenade lined with museums, which ends at the imposing neo-classical Philadelphia Museum of Art, is a contentious and complex legal matter.  As I learned more about the museum and its history, it became clear that the shiny new museum, its café and shop, were completely out of line with the will and wishes of the late Albert Barnes.  Though the artwork is unquestionably stunning and his unique curatorial style is very much in evidence, Barnes’ plans for his collection to remain solely an educational destination have been more or less overturned.


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