Underlying Intentions of the New Barnes: For Alfred or the Public?

Peter Schjeldahl’s “Moving Pictures” and Martin Filler’s “Victory!” certainly depicts the issue of the Barnes Foundation relocation from a different approach and angle.

Given Peter Schjeldahl’s need to write nearly a third of the article’s content on Dr. Alfred Barnes’s development in raising up an artwork display, aesthetic views on art and intentions in dedicating the Merion Museum for educational purposes, one would assume that the author has a complete knowledge and understanding for Barnes’s will to retain his art institution in Merion. In addition, he also remarks the transferring of Barnes’ collections “an aesthetic crime” and sees through this act as a political move to satisfy the “cravings of Philadelphian powers for a Center City tourist magnet.”

Yet, we find this assumption to be implicitly disproved by his approval of the Williams and Tsien’s construction of the new museum. Schjeldahl mentions that the new positioning of Matisse’s “Joy of Life” in the new building “looks bigger than I remembered, and, while still plenty radical, less confusing.” Furthermore, the author notes that the new installation of Barnes’ collections, while at first may have ignited concern for whether its integrity would be preserved, satisfactorily comments later on that it did “magnificently.”

Based on the gatherings of Schjeldahl’s opinions, (1)Does he really see the relocation as “an aesthetic crime”?  

Martin Filler, author of “Victory!”, introduces the relocation as a court order under legal requirements that the new building’s internal layout be identical to the old structure. However these conditions made people fearful that it would hinder the designers from putting a little originality. Essentially, the new Barnes’ design stemmed from “an invitational competition organized by Martha Thorne, executive director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize. Already, the motive for this move is held in question: (2) What is the real purpose behind all this? 

(3) Most importantly, why did both authors avoid mentioning Dr. Barnes’ will in their articles?

Behind the reasonings of the new Barnes installation from both articles, it seems as if people must find ways to justify their opinions in order to accommodate to their selfish desire to display art in what they deemed as appropriate rather than how the founder of his own art foundation sees it.


This entry was posted in Reading & Reacting. Bookmark the permalink.

One Response to Underlying Intentions of the New Barnes: For Alfred or the Public?

  1. Evgenia Gorovaya says:

    Schjeldahl certainly does not view the relocation as an aesthetic crime. His article seems to be completely for the relocation, as he believes the art is better off in its new home. He may have thought it an aesthetic crime in 2004, before he had seen the art in Philadelphia. However, now that he has seen that nothing is really lost artistically, he condones the move.
    It seems that although it was promised that Barnes’ wishes will be kept, there are no intentions to adhere to his principles if they are inconvenient. The museum was moved to Philadelphia in order to increase revenue; lighting was changed in order to make the paintings as attractive as possible; the design was even changed so that designers would be able to input their own originality. At first, it may seem that Barnes’ rights are being respected, but upon closer inquiry, it is clear that there is hierarchy in play here.
    Both articles chose to not dwell on Barnes’ will because it would blatantly disprove their argument that the moving of his artwork is justifiable. If considering the public, he art is better off in Philadelphia: it is more accessible and it is more attractively displayed. However, at the end of the day, the art belongs to Barnes, and Philadelphia had no right to ignore his will.

Leave a Reply