Artists Respond to the Barnes Way of Showing Art

Artists Respond to the Barnes Way of Showing Art

WRTI
July 28, 2015
By Susan Lewis

The Barnes Foundation in Philadelphia displays its art exactly the way it was shown in Albert C. Barnes’ mansion in Merion. As WRTI’s Susan Lewis reports, three visual artists respond to the idiosyncratic ensembles of Impressionist masters, African art, metalwork, furniture, and more.

Susan Lewis: Albert Barnes did not group his art by genre or chronology. Instead, he looked at relationships between elements within each work, such as use of color, light, line and space. Special Exhibition Curator Martha Lucy has more.

Martha Lucy: He had no problem putting a door hinge next to a Picasso next to an old master next to a Pennsylvania German chest.

SL: The ensembles Barnes created raise issues, Lucy says, that she wanted to explore.

ML: What happens when you take works of art out of their historical, chronological arrangement and put everything together based on form?

What happens when you, as a collector, make these groupings, things that become your works of art and declare that they have to remain that way forever?

SL: Three artists respond.

MUSIC: African music

SL: African music is heard from the corner of Fred Wilson’s six-room installation containing office objects from Merion. Another room has wooden benches stacked on one another. Their connection to Barnes' art?

ML: Look at the way Barnes takes a door knocker or a hinge or a soup ladle and hangs that on the wall – we think of it as beautiful, and it sort of becomes art.

SL: Also in the exhibition is Mark Dion’s  symmetrical arrangement of nets, guns, and other tools for  collecting natural specimens – suggesting a dark side of collecting.  And Judy Pfaff has created  an  immersive fantasy garden of shapes and colors, in a nod to Barnes' wife, Laura.