Yesterday I took a trip to the Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia. The Barnes has an interesting history, and a controversial one.
The Barnes Foundation is an American educational art and horticultural institution with locations in Merion, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia; and Logan Square, Philadelphia. It was founded in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, a chemist who collected art after making a fortune by co-developing an early drug marketed as Argyrol and selling his company at the right time, before antibiotics came into use.
Today, the foundation owns more than 2,500 objects, including 800 paintings, estimated to be worth about $25 billion. These are primarily works by Impressionist and Modernist masters, but the collection includes many other paintings by leading European and American artists, as well as ancient works from other cultures.
In the 1990s, the foundation’s declining finances led its leaders to various controversial moves, including sending artworks on world tours and proposing to move the collection to Philadelphia. A 2009 documentary, The Art of the Steal, argued that the foundation had been taken over by other non-profit institutions. After numerous court challenges, the new Barnes building opened on Benjamin Franklin Parkway on May 19, 2012.
It’s a gorgeous building with state of the art architecture, utilizing vast slabs of chiseled, textured stone on both the inside and outside, making it vaguely reminiscent of an Egyptian tomb. Once inside the building, there are countless tiny rooms to explore that are set up exactly the way that Mr. Barnes had them displayed. So in a way, the original Barnes experience is recreated within the new location.
Below is one of my favorite pieces of the collection. I’m not sure the name of it, but I know it’s a Renoir.
In my own studio, this is a newer piece that is available through the shop. It’s called Swoon and is ORIGINAL oil on panel painting, completed in 2014, 8 inches by 8 inches on a flat panel. To order or view more details follow the link to the shop here: https://jessica-libor.squarespace.com/shop/swoon
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