While the Barnes Foundation may grow old, there is still a force of nature in the city of Philadelphia. In its hundredth year, with its eclectic display choices and warm yellow walls, the museum is defined by intimacy, accessibility and comfort. It stands out against more traditional museums, which can often feel sterile. To celebrate l the Barnes Foundation is on this historic anniversary, the museum hosted a variety of special programs and exhibitions throughout the year. Although 2022 is coming to an end, there are still plenty of celebratory opportunities to be had.
Learning has always been a priority of the Barnes Foundation, since its inception: “The main ambition of the founder of the Barnes Foundation, Dr. Barnes, was to teach art to ordinary people, especially those who didn’t know much (or anything!) about art or art history – and to give them an accessible way to look at art, understand it, and talk about it,” Barnes explains. “That’s why he established the Barnes Foundation 100 years ago. We continue to carry out Dr. Barnes’ original vision, even as we now approach education in a broader way so that we can share the collection with many different audiences.
While some of these special exhibits have already opened and closed, like Water, Wind, Breath: Southwestern Native Art in the Community as good as Isaac Julien: Once again… (Statues never die), there is still a lot to see in the last months of the year. Modigliani up close will be on view in the museum’s Roberts Gallery from October 16 to January 29 next year. It will focus on Amedeo Modigliani’s artistic creation process, zooming in on a variety of works from museums around the world to better understand how his iconic elongated forms came to be.
The exhibition attracts visitors with varied interests and backgrounds thanks to its unique method: “Modigliani up close Using analytical techniques including X-ray radiography, infrared reflectography and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), conservators and conservation scientists have revealed previously unknown aspects of Modigliani’s work,” says Barnes. “Those who visit will inevitably feel closer to Modigliani as an artist, seeing his work through the eyes of experts, glimpsing the artist’s hand hidden beneath the surfaces of his work.”
An archival exhibition, titled Matisse, Dr. Barnes and “The Dance” on view this fall on the lower level, is an exclusive and unmissable glimpse into the past. Letters, sketches and photographs give visitors a behind-the-scenes look at the correspondences between Dr. Barnes and Henri Matisse during his creation of Dance. This work, which now triumphs over the lunette on the south wall of the museum’s main hall, contains one of Matisse’s most memorable and iconic motifs. For those who know the Philadelphia Museum of Art, located just up the street from Barnes, this exhibition brings together the two high places of art in Philadelphia: “Students can also visit the great Matisse in the 1930s exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which explores a transformative decade in Matisse’s art, a decade that followed a deep creative crisis – the turning point came in the fall of 1930, when Matisse […] received the commission from Albert Barnes for a three-part mural, Dance),” says the Barnes.
For those who have yet to experience the fascinating halls of Barnes, there is no better time than the present. Students with valid ID can visit the museum, located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, for only $5. And, on December 4, admission is free along with a variety of family activities in honor of the centenary and 10 years of Free First Sunday Family Day’s partnership with PECO.
Regardless of the year, the Barnes Foundation has always offered a unique museum experience. The building, full of works ranging from Impressionism to Mannerism and beyond, has created its own history. The Barnes is a marvel to the city of Philadelphia as well as the art world at large, so go wish him a happy 100th birthday while you still can!