Philadelphia will be alive with contemporary performance and theatre starting Friday, Sept. 9, with the beginning of FringeArts’ annual Philadelphia Fringe Festival. Now in its twentieth year, the 17–day celebration will include over 1,000 contemporary performances across the city, with both performances curated by FringeArts and works produced by independent artists. International, national and Philadelphia–based artists will be on display for the entirety of the festival.
Among the cultural institutions involved in the Fringe Festival is the Barnes Foundation, where on Sept. 9 composer Jace Clayton will be performing his piece Room 21. Originally planned to be a response to the collection as a whole, Clayton’s site–specific piece eventually came to focus on only room 21 of the Barnes collection. Lee Tusman, the project’s curator, attributes this development to the fact that the room, “Served as a microcosm of the collection overall: it contains both sacred and profane artworks, European single–artist paintings as well as anonymous cultural artifacts from Africa and paintings by students who studied at The Barnes Foundation.”
The carefully choreographed piece will be a testament to the adjacency of the Barnes collection’s vastly varying works. The FringeArts website quotes Clayton: “My approach to composition is informed by my background as a DJ, and in many ways Albert Barnes himself thought like a DJ by arranging artworks with a sense for their overall rhythm and unexpected resonances.”
For Blake Bradford, the Bernard C. Watson Director of Education at the Barnes, the performance suits the institution’s history of experimentation and its mission of advancing the public’s relationship with fine art. “In terms of the Barnes Foundation’s fit in the contemporary art world, Room 21 is further evidence of the deep resonance of Albert Barnes’s vision, activities, and collections. Whether minimalists, maximalists, or somewhere in between, many contemporary artists find inspiration in Barnes’ approach to display and his attempt to make sense of form and creativity,” he muses. “Also, there’s the very real sense that the Barnes isn’t just a place you visit, it’s a total experience.”
Clayton’s deeply visual and sonic performance will continue to emphasize the Barnes’ commitment to artistic immersion and experience. Performed in the Barnes Foundation’s Annenberg Court by an ensemble of over 12 musicians, it promises to show how one artist creates unity from diversity, and according to Mr. Bradford, “How an artist can make you more attentive and deepen your perception of the world.”
Sept. 9, 7:00 p.m.
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
$10; members $8. Includes collection access.
Room 21 has been supported by The Pew Center for Arts & Heritage.