The Barnes Foundation

A World Class Art Collection

The Barnes Foundation is a famous American horticultural and educational art institution with headquarters in Logan Square, Philadelphia and Merion, Pennsylvania. The foundation was established in 1922 by Albert C. Barnes, a chemist who made a fortune after inventing an anti-gonorrhea drug and who sold his company right before the invention of antibiotics. He practically became rich overnight and started collecting works of art and all sorts of other art pieces.

Since then, the foundation that wears his name has developed greatly and it has more than 2,500 art objects, including 800 stunning paintings valued at approximately $25 billion. These are mainly works of art created by Modernist and Impressionist masters, but there are many other paintings too, from various American and European artists and even ancient works belonging to different cultures.

Furthermore, the newest Barnes Foundation building is two stories high and has 93,000 sq. ft. being extremely wide and spacious. It was designed by talented architects, Billie Tsien and Tod Williams, and it received excellent reviews from the critics. It has a superb grey and gold limestone exterior and a fabulous glass canopy that glows during the night. Overall, it is a breathtaking construction, and it is placed extremely close to the Parkway Museum District. Additionally, there are more than four acres of landscaped grounds that are going to host the Barnes Arboretum in Merion, a place that is opened at the end of the summer. Another interesting feature is that the building presents numerous sustainable features, such as permeable surfaces that permit grey water to be re-used, and a green roof.

The Artists

However, the main attraction remains the Barnes collection, which features outstanding works of art. It includes 59 Matisses, 69 Cezannes, 181 Renoirs (the most represented artist in the museum), and countless works by Seurat, Degas, Manet, Picasso and Titian. Also, the gallery preserves the proportion, the configuration and the scale of the original Merion venue, and all the works of art are placed symmetrically, according to the outlook of the room. They are usually arranged on different categories and sometimes are paired with different artifacts. The overall arrangement respects the teachings of Albert C. Barnes, the man who put the basis of the foundation.

Additionally, the Barnes Foundation was initially created to develop new approaches of education and problem-solving abilities through the study of art. Mr. Barnes was extremely interested in cultivating educational philosophies and practices and he thought that art could help him greatly in this process. Nevertheless, the foundation has encountered various difficulties as well, especially during the 1990’s when it was involved into a national controversy related to the visitors’ restrictions due and the position of the facility in a pretentious residential neighborhood. Eventually, the foundation changed its location, and the public access facilities have been improved once the new building was opened again in May 2012.

All in all, the Barnes Foundation attracts thousands of visitors annually through the marvelous pieces exposed and if you have the possibility, you should definitively check it out because it’s truly unique.

Written by Patrick Kaisinger (Mike McCann Team Blogger Extraordinaire)

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