The ArtJail–A Modest Proposal by Albo Jeavons


Click on the YouTube video above to take a virtual tour of Artjail.

In the tradition of Jonathan Swift whose pamphlet, A Modest Proposal, suggested a cannibal solution to “the Irish problem” (ie let the English eat Irish babies), Albo Jeavons has proposed a radical solution in deadpan garb, that would merge the embattled Youth Study Center with the embattled Barnes for a new creation, the ArtJail, a place where youth could study art and art worlders could study the youth problem and there’d be slots and a plantation on the roof (tended by the inmates) and a home Fine Art Shopping Channel to make money to support it all. Now this is real thinking outside the box.

Combined art museum/prison proposed for Philadelphia’s Barnes Foundation.

by Albo Jeavons

No stranger to controversy, since it’s founding in the Philadelphia suburbs in 1922 the Barnes Foundation has been embroiled in one sort of conflict or another for most of it’s history, often thanks to the eccentricities of founder Albert C. Barnes. The unusual plan unveiled this week for a new Barnes building, which brings giant televisions, slot machines, and elaborately costumed employees to Philadelphia’s
Museum Row will do little to still those troubled waters. One of the proposal’s many radical elements is it’s inclusion of Philadelphia’s juvenile detention hall The Youth Study Center within the same structure as the Barnes Foundation’s multi-billion dollar art collection; earlier plans had called for a relocation of the Youth Study Center to West Philadelphia and a new plan floated by the City
this week would, at least temporarily, move the Center to East Falls.

The Website for the proposed institution speaks of “a more innovative approach which hews closer to the educational intent of … Dr. Albert C. Barnes, combining these two institutions with similar missions into one large structure with facilities that are physically separate but visually mingled; the imprisoned children are edified, as Doctor Barnes intended, by the presence of great art, while Foundation visitors get a rare glimpse of the education of some of our culture’s most under-privileged young people.

Image by Albo Jeavons of the proposed ArtJail. Note how Vegas it looks!
Image by Albo Jeavons of the proposed ArtJail. Note how Vegas it looks!

The plan would also integrate new for-profit elements into the scheme, including a Barnes-themed slot machine parlor called The ArtSlots, and a home shopping channel, The Fine Art Television Network which would offer Barnes-branded consumer goods on a cable TV channel, in a retail store in the new complex and in displays within the Barnes Collection galleries, mixing the goods with the art in what the Website describes as “Dr Barnes’ famous “groupings” updated for the 21st Century”.

The large structure, which echoes the massing and classical style of nearby buildings, uses an image of the original Barnes Foundation building as a repeated design element on it’s Parkway facade. The whole structure is sheathed in a “media-skin” which allows the building’s other sides to display moving and still images. Two prominent sections of the structure are shaped like six-story-tall CRT
television monitors and are fronted with giant flat-screen displays which will broadcast audio/video media streams to the Parkway area.

In keeping with the vogue for sustainability, sections of the media-skin act as solar collectors and the building features a 2.5-acre/1-hectare green-roof urban farm which will be worked by the inmates of the detention center in “authentic chain-gang-style”
costumes and overlooked by a rooftop restaurant “The New Plantation Cafe”.

Detailed plans for the new complex are available online.

We at artblog remember Jeavons fondly for his Disney Hole proposal of a few years back (to deal with the hole dug for the Disney indoor theme park that was never built). And more recently, we were fans of his anti-corporate/corporate takeover of Black Floor Gallery’s website during the bribe your way into this show show curated by Amy Adams. Read post.


albo jeavons, barnes, the artjail



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