After years of debate over the institute's home, the Barnes Foundation is ready to debut its Philadelphia campus, the new location for its extensive collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern art. To commemorate the opening, visitors can enjoy free admission for ten days, from opening day May 19th to the 28th. A variety of special events and exhibitions are planned, including a Memorial Day weekend-long celebration featuring live music, tours, art, horticulture classes, and other family-friendly activities.
Founded in 1922 by chemist turned art collector Albert C. Barnes, the foundation exists for the "promotion of the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts." The new campus in downtown Philadelphia, a 93,000 square foot extension of the original museum in nearby Merion, will house the collection from prominent painters such as Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Pierre-Auguste Renoir, and Paul Cézanne. The foundation’s horticultural programs and Archives will remain at the Merion site. In addition to the gallery space, the foundation has added classrooms and seminar rooms, a 150-seat auditorium, internal gardens, and a library.
The foundation’s decision to move their campus from Merion to Philadelphia was initially proposed in 2002, citing the museum’s location in the suburbs, which restricted the number of visitors in accordance with township zoning laws, and a weakened endowment as cause for the move. Controversy surrounding the relocation of the art began in 2004 when the Friends of Barnes Foundation association protested against the Philadelphia campus, arguing that Barnes’ will stipulated that the collection should not be moved from Merion. After a prolonged legal battle the case was dismissed, and the Barnes Foundation has sought to replicate the Merion galleries in Philadelphia as much as possible in order to retain the vision Barnes had for the collection, worth an estimated $25 billion.
The inaugural special exhibit, Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education, is dedicated to founder Albert C. Barnes’ methodology of using his specific arrangements of art as an educational tool for people from all backgrounds and walks of life. In addition, outdoor rooms and gardens planted between collections cultivate his ideology that art should be appreciated in nature, thus allowing for the quiet contemplation of the works that the suburban Merion galleries offered.
Visitors hoping to enjoy the opening festivities can reserve tickets online or by calling 866.849.7056.
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Photo Credit: courtesy The Barnes Foundation 2012