New Museum Elevates Philadelphia’s Art Scene

The new Barnes Collection is expected to draw art lovers to Philadelphia.

The art world was abuzz this week in anticipation of today’s grand opening of the new Barnes Foundation building in downtown Philadelphia. The stunning new $150-million building houses one of the world’s greatest collections of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings – including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses and 46 Picassos. Within the excitement of the new building is a fascinating and controversial story.

THE CONTROVERSY

The collection was compiled by local pharmaceuticals magnate Albert Barnes. When he died in 1951, he left his extensive collection housed in a modest building in Merion, PA, a couple of miles outside of Philadelphia with the stipulation that it never be moved, lent, sold or divided, and used only for educational purposes.

After a series of complicated lawsuits, the court approved the request to move the collection to downtown Philadelphia. The new building is an updated version of the Merion space, and Barnes’ original installations have been replicated with the addition of a library, cafe, gift shop and a space for rotating exhibitions.

The artwork is displayed in the exact manner of Dr. Barnes' wishes.

THE COLLECTION

Whether or not you know your Manets from your Monets, the Barnes Foundation is worth a visit. Philadelphia locals remain divided about whether the move was just or not, and the new Barnes building is the talk of the town. But there is no uncertainty about the art work – the collection is stunning. The paintings are not labeled, and they are clustered together in large groups, surrounded by unusual pieces of iron work and traditional furniture. I found the lack of information to be liberating once I stopped worrying about which paintings are which and enjoyed them simply for the scenes presented and the colors used.

OTHER PLACES TO SEE ART IN PHILADELPHIA

The opening of the Barnes Foundation officially places Philly into the ranks of one of the best American cities for art. There are a number of other spots nearby which are also worth a visit:

  • The Philadelphia Museum of Art houses works spanning 2,000 years, and is home to a lovely sculpture garden. For movie buffs, this is also the site of the famous scene in Rocky, and you can find a sculpture of the boxer in front of the museum.
  • The University of Pennsylvania Museum is home to an extensive collection of Egyptian artifacts including a 12-ton granite Sphinx.
  • Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts (PAFA) is a stunning historic building with a collection of American art; go for the building and stay for the art.

WHEN YOU GO

The Barnes, $18 admission; closed Tuesdays. www.barnesfoundation.org
The Philadelphia Museum of Art, $15 admission; closed on Mondays. PhilaMuseum.org
The U Penn Museum, $12 admission; closed on Mondays. penn.museum
PAFA, $15 admission; closed on Mondays. PAFA.org
More details on Philadelphia’s art scene: VisitPhilly.com/withart.
While in Philadelphia, I stayed at the Hotel Palomar Philadelphia. With an extensive collection of local art, comfortable beds to rest your feet after a long day in the galleries, and bikes available for guests, it was an art lover’s dream. hotelpalomar-philadelphia.com

This trip was sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corporation.

About Anna Stancioff

With 15 years experience working in travel and hospitality, Anna Stancioff has a serious case of wanderlust. Anna has visited more than 30 countries and has promoted some of the world's biggest names in travel, with a specialty in luxury hospitality. She is interested in design, architecture and the arts, as well as active and adventure travel. Anna is based in New York City, and will never say no to a game of pinball.

Comments

  1. Carla Marie Rupp says:

    I really enjoyed meeting you, Anna, and what a great article you wrote about the art in Philadelphia! Good work. Nice story and pictures. Isn’t Philadelphia a wonderful city? And I agree that the Palomar Hotel was an art lover’s dream after a day of seeing beautiful art and lunching in the museum. The Barnes campus is certainly worth a wonderful visit for its fabulous art. Each gallery is comfortable and enjoyable, as your story portrays.

    Carla Marie Rupp

    Freelance Travel Writer

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