Barnes Foundation Names New Chief Curator

Barnes Foundation Names New Chief Curator

The New York TImes
November 5, 2015
By Randy Kennedy

The Barnes Foundation — which is still feeling out its new identity in downtown Philadelphia after relocating in 2012 from its original home in the suburb of Merion, Pa. — announced Thursday that it had chosen Sylvie Patry, a longtime curator at the Musée D’Orsay in Paris, to be its new chief curator and deputy director for collections and exhibitions.

Ms. Patry, 46, is a specialist in Impressionist and Post-Impressionism, which is the strength of the Barnes’s collection, built by Albert C. Barnes, a willful and eccentric pharmaceutical tycoon, and opened in 1922. A contentious 2004 court decision allowed the foundation to relocate downtown, a decision that circumvented the highly specific charter and bylaws of Barnes, who had stipulated that his collection could not be lent, sold or moved from its original home. The move, while still unpopular in many quarters, has allowed the foundation to expand its programming and conservation initiatives and explore exhibitions with contemporary artists whose work can play off the permanent collection.

Ms. Patry, in a telephone interview from Paris, said she sought the job because she felt the Barnes was “a collection that is known but not so well known, which makes it a very interesting job for a curator. It was so isolated in a way for so many years and there are so many stories still embedded in the collection. My sense is that the relocation has really reshuffled the cards.”

Ms. Patry will be joined in re-envisioning the museum’s shows and outreach by Martha Lucy, a former curator at the foundation, who will be returning as curator and as deputy director for education and public programs.