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Naked elitism


I was going to put up Louis Greenstein’s post about the Barnes and not respond, but it just so happens that my brother came to town from Edmonton, and we decided it would be swell to go to the Barnes. (Shown, a door from Africa, from the collection)

Get in the door and pass go

We got lucky. There may have been no reservations available for the next seven years, but when I called yesterday morning, they said they had two for 1 p.m. Yessss. (Not that they offered the info; I got it by persistence and questions.)

I haven’t been there for a zillion years (first point against keeping the joint in Merion, where no one can get in the damned place), and once again I was stunned by the collection. How could one person amass so much wonderful art (blowzy Renoirs aside)?

Only the privileged need apply

I reread Greenstein’s letter and got furious.

vangoghtavernscene2So Greenstein wants to keep the paintings all to himself. This is about exclusivity. (Let them take the bus instead, he said, a la Marie Antoinette. I bet he doesn’t take the bus. And how about the issue of getting a reservation to get in the joint.) (Shown, “Tavern Scene” by Vincent Van Gogh.)

I don’t think that such a wealth of cultural artifacts belongs sequestered away inaccessible to the public except for the privileged few like Greenstein. I utterly disagree with him.

Take the mystery out of the Barnes’ education program

cezannebibemusquarry2 Furthermore, the education program is not so special. It’s just art education. What’s special about the education is the art. The other stuff you learn in any university art history course (shown, cezanne’s “Bibemus Quarry”).

Furthermore, the displays and some of the points Barnes was making with the displays seemed silly, pretentious and self-aggrandizing. They had less to do with the art and more to do with Barnes’ proving his cleverness. I was frankly embarrassed by some of it. Enough with the pairing of violet and yellow already.

A mob of paintings

barnesviewers2 The precious hanging system that everyone raves about is awful. It does a disservice to each painting. Many of the paintings are hard to see–badly lit or skied so high they require a step ladder to view them (look at these poor visitors craning their necks).

I’m not saying you can’t group paintings. But there are groupings and then there are groupings. This was a painting mob scene.

Barnes’ wishes

matissegirlinblackonabalcony2 But for all that, the Barnes was fabulous. However, keeping it for the precious elite who are organized enough to make their reservations 60 days in advance or take the classes is not right (shown, Matisse’s “Girl in Black on a Balcony”).

With things continuing the way they are, the collection may well go down the tubes, broken up to pay for itself. While we’re all invoking Dr. Barnes and his wishes, I say he would not be happy with that particular outcome, either. So let’s get real, return to the 21st century, and save what we can.

Move it to Center City and let someone other than Greenstein see the art work.