Monday, July 13, 2009
Strugglesome Still Lives and Renoir Overload
For those who live in or around the proud city of Struggledelphia The Barnes Foundation will not come as an unfamiliar name. However, as I try to account for those of you not living in our beautiful town of corrupt politicians and dreadful public transportation. I know, I'm really selling this place. The truth of the matter is that I very much adore Struggledelphia in all of it's insanity because it is that same level of crazy that has us hosting "The Fattest Day of Summer" (beautifully covered at Philebrity.com), or the hipster's paradise in cycle form, a biking and sodium filled evening once a week of pretzels and skinny jeans, or the Barnes.
The Barnes Foundation has faced a huge amount of scandal in the last couple years, and I certain don't feel qualified to explain the history of the foundation (not that that usually stops me) but suffice to say, the Barnes is a large art museum located in the suburbs of Struggledephia. In the museum hangs one of the largest private collections of impressionist art in the world, which was painstakingly collected by Mr. Albert Barnes, who, as my friend Andrew described him, must have been like Henry Clay Frick on crack. . Mr. Barnes developed some kind of pharmaceutical product (oh for the days before the Food and Drug Administration. My dreams of being a traveling con-man/doctor will never be fulfilled now) which earned him his millions and allowed him to pursue his true passion, Art. Barnes went on to buy lots and lots (and lots and lots and lots) of art, which he offered to the Struggledelphia Museum of Art, who found Cezanne's landscapes and Renoir's cherubs outrageously avant garde, and rejected him out of hand. Not to be defeated, Mr. Barnes established his own damn museum, which now is available only by appointment, at least until it gets moved to it's new downtown location in the next few years. However, given the lawsuits surrounding the move (Barnes specified in his will that the collection was never to be moved or re-arranged) that might take a while.
Where do I come into this story? Well, in celebration of my 22 years on this planet, my friends Andrew and Becca were in town for the weekend, and, savvy art history majors that they are (were? what's the etiquette here?) they decided that we should sojourn to the suburbs and face the museum head-on. And what is the museum, you ask? It is a struggle. A huge, terribly displayed, wildly strange, Renoir filled struggle with strange iron hinges and tools hung next to and surrounding each painting like some kind of medieval torture chamber with an appreciation for bowls of artfully rendered peaches. There is amazing art in this museum, beautiful stunning paintings that beg to be seen and studied, but four rooms in you realize a series of things:
1. Renoir is unbearable for more then two paintings in a row. Barnes bought his whole studio.
2. Putting tiny paintings close to the ceiling of a room may deter perspective thieves, but only because no vision is strong enough to see the thing from the ground.
3. African tribal masks? Great. Matisse? Great. But not in the same room. (I'm having nightmares)
This museum is, in short, a thrill ride of crazy with some struggle thrown in for good measure. I salute you, Mr. Barnes. You make struggle look easy.