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Would Barnes collect the new Barnes Foundation as a piece of artwork?

nightowl's picture

In order to read my experience of The Barnes Foundation as a piece of artwork through the lens of Barnes’s ideology, I can consider the time, access system, colors, architecture, people and artwork found in the building. I am thinking of what the space invites me to think as a piece of artwork in itself.           

When I walked into the Barnes I felt intimidated by its large square entrance. The grey color scheme matched the nearby skyscrapers. Confused by how the system worked and being almost ten minutes late, I handed my crumpled printed out ticket to the receptionist unsure of what else I was supposed to do. The receptionist pointed me downstairs where I exchanged my coat for a tag with a number on it. I was then guided to an atrium, which was absurdly large for the ten or so people in it. The atrium was boxed shaped and made of mostly glass windows, which provided lots of natural light. The light illuminated the upstairs where various metal tables and chairs were located, all vacated. I passed over the headphones because I was only planning to look at one piece of artwork. The final gatekeeper then told me that the museum was at capacity and to wait a moment. Around the time that my ticket said I should be leaving the museum, I entered it. I went into crowded rooms in which there was crowed artwork with security guards to watch over both. Except for the main room, there were limited windows. Large lamps, which had a warm glow against the mostly orange burlap walls, illuminated the museum. The artwork had nice rococo frames and the visitors were dressed nicely. The visitors seemed to be mostly talking about which pieces of artwork they liked. When I sat down to look at one piece of artwork, people distractingly passed by me and there was always light chatter in the background. Despite this, I was able to concentrate on my painting even though my feeling of initial attraction to it was gone.

Barnes said, “We perceive only what we have learned to look for.” (6) which is true in the sense that I didn’t notice the material that the building was made of or the vocal accents of the people inside of The Barnes Foundation. With the limited amount of time that I had mixed with the volume of paintings, I was excited and overwhelmed by the gallery’s grandeur. The gallery was telling me to perceive it as not belonging to me, but something above me, an art treasure only a city could afford, “What an artist places before us is a series of forms, which appear to him as significant, and which were productive of the emotion which he seeks to embody.” (31)

If Barnes were alive today he would theoretically collect the museum as a piece of artwork. By going to the museum without knowing it’s complicated history, I was able to sense that it had some kind objective, “The artist illuminates the objective world for us, exactly as does the scientist.” It’s overcrowding of paintings and people and lighting challenged my “precious habits, it threaten(ed) to overturn (my) judgments” (4) of more traditional museums. The Barnes Foundation has the potential to critique normal art museums, the objectives of the people who have power over the Barnes foundation, a citizen’s place in art and the city, and many other possible topics, “Academic criticism necessarily fails to estimate justly the work of any artist, because its fixed standards are inapplicable to a world which is in a state of flux.” (30)


nightowl's picture

Source Edit

Forgot this:

Barnes, Albert. The Art in Painting. Merion Sation, PA: The Barnes Foundation, 1925.