Sunday, March 7, 2010

Art as consumable and accessible?

I recently saw a documentary about the movement of the Barnes Foundation collection to the Philadelphia Museum of Art. The Barnes Foundation is a private art school that houses "one of the finest collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings in the world, including an extraordinary number of masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181), Paul C├ęzanne (69), and Henri Matisse (59). The collection also includes important works by Pablo Picasso (46), Chaim Soutine (21), Henri Rousseau (18), Amedeo Modigliani (16), Edgar Degas (11), Vincent van Gogh (7), Georges Seurat (6), Edouard Manet (4), and Claude Monet (4)." When Albert Barnes died he left behind a very specific and detailed will that guarded against any of the works in his estate being sold or moved. However, the city of Philadelphia has managed to purchase the collection that they will move to their art museum in 2011.

The documentary brought many questions to the forefront:
Should the "masses" have access to these works of "high art?"
Is the "importance" of making these paintings more accessible enough to ignore the original owner's wishes?
Will the "value" of these paintings decrease once they are obtained by the public and included in a highly accessible museum?

(I just thought I'd share. - Sarah)

1 comment:

  1. I have not yet seen "The Art of the Steal" but was fortunate enough to visit the Barnes several years ago, and have extremely mixed feelings about the collection's move from Albert Barnes' original home to a specially constructed wing of the Philadelphia Museum. The collection (which is worth an estimated $25 billion!!) is, in my view, best seen in the context in which Barnes installed it - each room in the home was designed in a very eccentric and particular fashion to highlight the paintings on the walls. On the other hand, a move to the Museum will necessarily result in exposure of the art to a far greater number of visitors (currently, it is nearly impossible to get timed-entry tickets to Barnes' home). Additionally, the Museum will have better climate-controlled space which will be better for the art in the long-term. I recall walking through the collection at Barnes' home and being horrified that a lovely Matisse painting above a door was located immediately adjacent to a heating vent.

    Here is a link to the Times review of the film for anyone who is interested: