What the Barnes!?

The Barnes Foundation has come under fire the past few months for its planned move from stately ancestral home in a 12-acre suburban arboretum to the mean streets of downtown Philadelphia. But Philly lawyer Seymour “Spence” Toll sides with the Foundation on this one. Why? Becuase the Barnes, which houses one of the world’s largest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, with extensive holdings by Picasso, Matisse, Cézanne, Renoir and Modigliani, and important examples of African sculpture, isn’t a museum.
Then what, pray tell, is it?
He writes:

…the fact is that since its creation in 1922, the Barnes has always been a school, not a museum.

Closely collaborating with the American philosopher John Dewey, Barnes wanted the foundation to be a school in which Dewey’s thought would be used to teach students to understand and appreciate art. Dewey saw the foundation as “one of the most important educational acts, one of the most profound educational deeds, of the age in which we are living.”

Thus, for nearly 90 years, those fabled paintings and objects have not been on passive display in a museum. They have been used as priceless teaching materials in a remarkable school for generations of Barnes Foundation art students.

School or no school, it is a shame that the Foundation is leaving its home of 90 years. I’m going to have to side with Nicky on this one.


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