My husband signed up for a one day conference in Philadelphia this past weekend. In the past when he’s gone I’ve visited a friend who lives there, but she was out of town this weekend. I still decided to ride up with him and figured I would spend the day at the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Barnes Foundation.
I realized I’m spoiled by the art museums in Baltimore and DC many of which are free to get into. The Philadelphia Art Museum is $20 and the Barnes Foundation is an outrageous $30. I can’t believe I spent $50 on art museums in one day, but I did.
It’s been a long time since I’ve been to the Philadelphia Art Museum. They had a couple of special exhibits going on. One was called Modern Times, which covered American Art from 1910-1950. There was also an exhibit of photographs of artists. That one didn’t do much for me for the most part. There were a few interesting photographs but random portraits of people don’t get me that excited. Same of the section of the museum dedicated to painted portraits of old white guys. No thanks. Enjoyed most of the regular collection of the museum except for the video art, which always creeps me out. I also funnily enough ran into some Baltimore friends in the museum. That I was not expecting. It’s definitely a small world.
After grabbing a quick lunch I headed to the Barnes Foundation, which is somewhere I’ve wanted to go for a very long time but for whatever reason have never actually made the time to go. When I was high school back in the mid-90s I saw a special exhibition of a portion of the collection at the Fort Worth Museum of Art when it was touring. That was a big deal with Albert Barnes who curated the collection and used it as a school was very clear in his will that he did not want the collection separated and he wanted all the art work left in the same configuration he had it in when he died. Whoever controls the estate went before the court to get approval to raise money to keep up the collection. They again got approval from the court to move the collection from its original location in Merion, Pennsylvania to the new building in downtown Philadelphia.
Having never been to the previous location I don’t know how the building layout itself compares, but the artwork is hung as it was in the original location when Albert Barnes died. It makes for a very interesting experience viewing the art as it’s not hung like you would normally see in a museum. There is a lot of art work hung up and down every wall. In a few rooms I would say there was too much. You couldn’t even really process it. There are no labels on the wall like you normally see in museums. Instead in each room there is a booklet you could pick up that would let you know what all of the artwork is. It’s a good thing too because if I hadn’t been looking in the booklet I wouldn’t have looked up far enough to see the Matisse mural in the arches at the top of the room along the ceiling. I had a particular interest in this piece, which I didn’t actually realize was real because it featured prominently in B.A. Shapiro’s book “The Collector’s Apprentice” which is very, very, very loosely based on Albert Barnes and the Barnes Foundation story. It’s a very cool museum and I highly recommend visiting it unless for some reason you hate Renoir. It’s A LOT of Renoir. It’s a very impressive collection for one man to have collected.