The Barnes Foundation is located just over a mile from the Cornerstone Bed and Breakfast is a 93,000-square-foot, two-story building, designed by architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, is described as a “gallery in a garden, a garden in a gallery.” Boasting a textured grey-and-gold Ramon limestone exterior and a glass canopy that glows at night, the building is a breathtaking addition to the Parkway Museum District.
The four-and-a-half acre landscaped grounds reference the Barnes Arboretum in Merion, which will reopen in the late summer of 2012. In addition, the building boasts a number of sustainable features, including a green roof and permeable surfaces that allow for rain and grey water re-use.
But the true draw is the Barnes Collection featuring 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes and 59 Matisses, along with works by Manet, Degas, Seurat, Prendergrast, Titian and Picasso.
The 12,000-square-foot gallery preserves the scale, proportion and configuration of the original Merion location. The priceless works are symmetrically arranged according to size, and often paired with artifacts and furniture (think: African sculpture, Pennsylvania Dutch folk art, antique Chinese paintings) organized around themes and formal elements. The scheme is the physical manifestation of the teachings of the man who collected the works, Albert C. Barnes.
The Barnes Foundation was created in 1922, a school originating with Barnes’ educational experimentation in his Argyrol (pharmaceutical) factory. Barnes and The Foundation’s first director of education, John Dewey, were interested in fostering cognitive development through new approaches to education, and in heightening critical-thinking and problem-solving skills through the study of art. Barnes, like Dewey, was actively engaged in development of an intellectual framework and educational philosophies and practices with many of the best artists and thinkers of his day.
In 2004, a court ruling granted permission for the Barnes Foundation’s gallery art collection to move to a new building on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway in Center City Philadelphia.
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