The year’s biggest art story unfolds in Philadelphia this weekend when the Barnes Foundation opens on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The renowned collection — featuring 181 Renoirs (more than any other collection), 69 Cézannes (more than in all of France) and groundbreaking African art — joins the Parkway's mile-long stretch of cultural powerhouses.
The Barnes Foundation's 93,000-square-foot building, designed by Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects, was conceived as a "gallery within a garden and a garden within a gallery” and is set within a four-and-a-half-acre site with landscape design by Olin. The Barnes is officially not a museum, but an educational institution keeping with its mission when Albert Barnes established it in 1922 to teach populist methods of appreciating and evaluating art. Its new home does have museum-like amenities like a cafeteria and gift shop, however, as well as discreet classroom and lecture space. The legendary Barnes art collection will be presented within a 12,000-square-foot gallery that preserves the scale, proportion and configuration of the original Merion gallery, as well as the founder's conception of a visual interplay between art and nature.
The Foundation's Philadelphia campus (on the site of the former Youth Study Center Juvenile Detention Center) cost of $150 million for construction and related expenses. The Barnes Foundation successfully raised $200 million to pay for construction with $50 million to establish an endowment, in a campaign that will continue after the opening.
Barnes, a pharmaceutical magnate who died in 1951, stipulated in a trust that his legendary trove of 800 impressionist and post-impressionist paintings forever "remain in exactly the places they are." While the new campus on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway enables the Foundation to relax previous restrictions on public visitation, admissions will be scheduled so as to maintain an intimate and contemplative atmosphere. The natural light in the gallery, controlled through contemporary technology, reveals the true beauty of the Barnes Foundation's unparalleled collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, African sculpture, Pennsylvania Dutch decorative arts and other important works.
"Now, after a long and determined effort to secure the future of the Barnes Foundation, we look forward to welcoming the public to our accessible new campus in Philadelphia," said Dr. Bernard C. Watson, chairman of the Barnes Foundation Board of Trustees. "The time has come for people to see what we offer, and take advantage of this wonderful institution and its collection and educational programming, which Dr. Barnes intended for all people from all walks of life."
The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia, located 2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway, will open with 10 days of free admission beginning on May 19 and continuing through May 28. The building will be dedicated on Friday, May 18, 2012, at 11 am. The inaugural week culminates with a Memorial Day festival weekend, offering round-the-clock free admission to the renowned collection and entire campus. The weekend features a variety of entertainment and programs from noon on May 26 through 6 p.m. on May 28. Tickets are required for all opening events and are available at www.barnesfoundation.org or by calling toll free (866) 849-7056.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.