After a day of meetings at Anthropologie HQ in Philadelphia I had arranged to stay with my great friend & often travel companion (see Nomad Japan, India and in upcoming book, Gypsy) head home designer Mitzie.

To fill the last of the day, I headed to the newly opened Barnes Foundation. A modern building, designed by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien Architects and purpose built on a 4.5 acre strip in a park to house the collection. Its interiors were designed to replicate the original display & feel of the Barnes House, originally settled in the outskirts of PA but now well & truly in the burbs of Philly.

Although it has opened with some controversy, the collection is impressive, and display Barnes’ ensembles (see definition in attached pic) with 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos and 69 Cezannes jostling for wall space. Amongst the paintings that wrap around the walls are impressive pieces of door hardware and furniture pieces are arranged against the walls with pottery and carved African pieces mixed in. The walls are lined with linen to replica the original property giving it a residential feel, as if someone is home. It’s beautiful. The display is unconventional & refreshing reflecting Barnes: a visionaire who detested art historians and welcomed students over intellectuals to view his collection. Barnes had a passion for education (not museums!) and wanted the underprivileged to have direct access to art without being influenced by curators. He is famous for sending rejection letter signed by his dog to famous writers & poets.

Although it does not quite reach the standards of Musee de la Chasse et de la Nature, it is up close & personal and if you are as big a fan of Matisse as I am, this is the place for you. Plus the Postman by Picasso just takes your breath away.

If you are looking for dinner in Philly, try The Dandelion Pub  or Audrey Claire.


Written by Adam TSI Byron — October 28, 2019

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