Saturday, June 12, 2010

Reborn in the Barnes

I am in Philadelphia with my mom and sister Jennifer. No, I have not seen "The Art of the Steal", but when I heard that the Barnes Foundation would be moving the Albert Barnes art collection he established from the building which had housed it for almost a century, a building designed for this art collection, with each piece of art very specifically arranged with other paintings and objects and furniture not chronologically, not by style or painter, but for the purpose of teaching the viewer about life with art, and to teach students to see...well, when I heard that it would no longer be where it was so carefully and purposely placed, I had to go and see it before that happened. Then Mom said she really wanted to see it. So favorite-daughters-for-the-weekend Jennifer and I made the arrangements to get us all here.
For those of you who have never seen an original painting, in a decent museum where it is displayed well, even if you have seen good reproductions, but never an original, you might not appreciate this experience. It is kind of like the difference between seeing pictures of the Grand Canyon, and being there in person looking over the rim and experiencing the majesty of it. If at all possible, see art in its original form.
Then there is something about seeing the original artwork when it is displayed well, and you are not just walking past it to get to the next piece. I remember fitting in a visit to the National Gallery in London just to spend 25 minutes in front of the DaVinci Madonna there before going to a play.
At the Barnes Foundation, you approach the building in the middle of a residential neighborhood. The grounds have 18 acres of beautiful gardens designed by Barnes' wife. Expanses of clover lawns, forests of huge trees, rose gardens, japanese tea house and pond, specimen plantings surround the building which is covered with art sculpture and mosaic.
When I entered the main gallery, I stood in the middle and very slowly turned to see each wall, looking up to see the gigantic Matisse murals he had painted specifically for this room. I saw impressionist, post-impressionist, renaissance, medieval, byzantine, african, baroque, metalwork and sculptures from every time and place, all hanging side by side, carefully arranged so the colors, or shapes, or lines mirrored, or added to each other, pulling you into the images and teaching you to look and see in a new way.
Within moments, I realized my heart was racing and I was breathing a bit fast.
There were a few times during the 3 hours I was there that I was holding back tears, the whole experience was so powerful.
We went back there for a second visit today. Even better.
If you can, get to Philadelphia and give yourself an aerobic art workout.
Thank you, Jennifer and Mom for coming making a great girl's weekend.
Thank you, Mike for using your frequent flyer miles to get me a ticket. Hope you have enough to get us both flights to come here together. This is something richer for the sharing.