Friday, April 18, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Museum ends Albert Barnes exhibit

"A further slight to the man and his legacy"

Museum ends Albert Barnes exhibit

Chirico portrait of Albert Barnes
Chirico portrait of Albert Barnes

"Less than a year after Albert Barnes’s art, uprooted from its original home in Merion, Pennsylvania, occupied new quarters, the collector himself has been removed from the Philadelphia museum that now houses his treasures," writes Bloomberg LP's Katya Kazakina here.

"Barnes, a doctor, chemist and all around eccentric, died in 1951 leaving an astonishing collection that included 181 Renoirs. Though his will expressly forbade moving the pictures from Merion," leaders of the Barnes Foundation, aided by the Annenberg, Lenfest, Perelman, Pew and Roberts family fortunes and nearly $50 million in Pennsylvania taxpayer money, broke Barnes' will and moved his pictures to Philadelphia's Benjamin Franklin Parkway anyway, next to the city Art Museum whose elite backers were, to Barnes, enemies of popular and proper art study.

"The new museum opened with a special show that many perceived as an effort to soothe critics of the move. It was called 'Ensemble: Albert C. Barnes and the Experiment in Education,' and told the early history of the foundation from its founding in 1922... It was a tribute to Barnes himself, drawing from archival material...  The show also included letters signed by his beloved dog Fidele and its specially constructed little bed. A vitrine celebrated Barnes’s development of Argyrol, an antiseptic useful for the treatment of gonorrhea." All gone now:

"This reflection and ode to the man without whom there would be no Barnes Foundation to visit, has now been closed to make room for 'Ellsworth Kelly: Sculpture on the Wall,' which opens on May 4.

Barnes spokesperson Jan Rothschild told Bloomberg that "we are planning an event to celebrate Dr. Barnes as we kick off our anniversary weekend on May 15. On that day we will move the Di Chirico portrait of him to the gallery entrance.” Other material “is being prepared for presentation on our website, as orientation for our visitors and for display in other parts” of the building."

Adds Bloomberg: "While the Barnes tribute was never described as permanent, its removal struck some as a further slight to the man and his legacy." Evelyn Yaari, president of Barnes Watch, which opposed the museum move, speculates Barnes was removed in deference to the intentions of the late Walter Annenberg, whose foundation helped lead the charge for the move. As Yaari told me, "Annenberg did hate Dr.  Barnes' guts."

More on Barnes: The clearest Barnes book I've seen is Howard Greenfeld's "The Devil and Dr. Barnes" (Camino Books, Philadelphia)

Joseph N. DiStefano
About this blog

PhillyDeals posts raw drafts and updates of Joseph N. DiStefano's columns and stories about Philly-area finance, investment, commercial real estate, tech, hiring and public spending, which he's been writing since 1989, mostly for the Philadelphia Inquirer.

DiStefano studied economics, history and a little engineering at Penn, taught writing at St. Joe's, and has written the book Comcasted, more than a thousand columns, and thousands of articles, and raised six children with his wife, who is a saint.

Reach Joseph N. at JoeD@phillynews.com or 215 854 5194.

Joseph N. DiStefano
Business Videos:
Also on Philly.com:
Stay Connected