While the Barnes Foundation may be getting older, it still remains a force of nature in the city of Philadelphia. In its hundredth year, with its eclectic display choices and warm yellow walls, the museum is defined by intimacy, approachability, and comfort. It stands out compared to more traditional museums, which can often feel sterile. To celebrate l the Barnes Foundation is on this historic anniversary, the museum has hosted a variety of special programs and exhibitions throughout the year. While 2022 may be coming to a close, there are still lots of celebratory opportunities to take advantage of.
Learning has always been a priority of the Barnes Foundation, dating back to its founding: “The driving ambition of Barnes Foundation founder, Dr. Barnes, was to teach ordinary people about art—especially those who didn’t know much (or anything!) about art or art history—and to give them an accessible method for looking at art, understanding it, and speaking about it,” says the Barnes. “That is why he started the Barnes Foundation 100 years ago. We continue to carry out Dr. Barnes's original vision, though we now approach education in a broader way so we can share the collection with many different audiences.”
While some of these special exhibitions have already opened and closed, like Water, Wind, Breath: Southwest Native Art in Community as well as Isaac Julien: Once Again… (Statues Never Die), there is still much to see in the remaining few months of the year. Modigliani Up Close will be on view in the museum’s Roberts Gallery from October 16 until January 29th of next year. It will focus on Amedeo Modigliani’s art-making process, zooming in on a variety of works from museums across the globe to better understand how his iconic elongated forms came to be.
The exhibition appeals to visitors with a wide array of interests and backgrounds based on its unique method: “Modigliani Up Close Using analytical techniques, including X-radiography, infrared reflectography, and X-ray fluorescence spectroscopy (XRF), conservators and conservation scientists have revealed previously unknown aspects of Modigliani’s work,” says the Barnes. “Those who visit will inevitably feel closer to Modigliani as an artist, seeing his work through the eyes of the experts, catching glimpses of the artist’s hand hidden beneath the surfaces of his work.”
An archival exhibition, called Matisse, Dr. Barnes, and “The Dance,” on view this fall season in the Lower Level, is an unmissable, exclusive sneak peek into the past. Letters, sketches, and photographs give visitors a backstage view of correspondences between Dr. Barnes and Henri Matisse over the course of his creation of The Dance. This work, which now triumphs the lunettes of the museum’s Main Room’s South Wall, contains one of Matisse’s most memorable and iconic motifs. For those who are familiar with the Philadelphia Museum of Art, located just up the street from the Barnes, this exhibition brings the two Philly art meccas into dialogue: “Students can also visit the major Matisse in the 1930s exhibition at the Philadelphia Museum of Art (which explores a transformative decade in the art of Matisse, one that followed a deep creative slump--the turning point came in the fall of 1930, when Matisse [...] received the commission from Albert Barnes for a three-part mural, The Dance),” says the Barnes.
For those who have not yet experienced the mesmerizing rooms of the Barnes, there is no time like the present. Students with valid I.D. can visit the museum, located on Benjamin Franklin Parkway, for just $5. And, on December 4, admission is free along with a variety of family activities in honor of both the centennial anniversary and 10 years of Free First Sunday Family Day’s partnership with PECO.
No matter the year, the Barnes Foundation has always offered a unique museum experience. The building, full of works ranging from Impressionism to Mannerism and beyond, has created its own history. The Barnes is a marvel for the city of Philadelphia as well as the broader art world, so go wish it a happy 100th birthday while you still can!