The Barnes Foundation presents Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, Fred Wilson: The Order of Things

The Barnes Foundation presents Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, Fred Wilson: The Order of Things

Exhibition features three large-scale installations
commissioned by the Barnes Foundation

May 16 through August 3, 2015 
Press Preview: Tuesday, May 12

twitter iconTweet this: The Order of Things riffs on Barnes and his way of displaying art.
Opens May 16 @the_Barnes #MyOrderOfThings

Philadelphia PA, April 1, 2015
– The Barnes Foundation presents Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, Fred Wilson: The Order of Things, an exhibition featuringnew works commissioned by the Barnes Foundation on view from May 16 through August 3, 2015. For this exhibition, Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff and Fred Wilson were invited to respond to the unusual way that Dr. Albert C. Barnes displayed his collection. The results are three large-scale installations and a sound intervention that bring contemporary ideas into dialogue with the permanent collection and its installation at the Barnes. The exhibition also features a re-creation of The Dutch Room, a small space in the Merion gallery building that was removed to install an elevator in the 1990s.

The curious display of the Barnes Collection, organized into what Dr. Barnes referred to as ensembles, is one of the hallmarks of the Barnes Foundation. Nearly a century ago Dr. Barnes overturned traditional categories of display—mixing together objects from different cultures, time periods, and media—and invented his own highly-structured system for ordering the world. Much like an installation artist, Dr. Barnes endowed objects with new meanings simply by shifting their context.

“Barnes’s ensembles are ripe for analysis,” says Martha Lucy, Barnes Foundation Consulting Curator and Assistant Professor of Art History at Drexel University in Philadelphia. “Dr. Barnes arranged his collection in a very unconventional way; he ignored chronology and history and hung things together that normally would never share a wall—a Cézanne with an El Greco, for example. What Dr. Barnes did was replace the traditional display system with one of his own: Each of his assemblages is perfectly symmetrical, perfectly ordered, and set in place for perpetuity. This is what the artists are responding to in The Order of Things. Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, and Fred Wilson are all riffing on Barnes. Their responses are thoughtful and provocative, and we hope they will offer audiences new ways to think about Barnes's display.” 

In his work The Incomplete Naturalist, Mark Dion creates an enormous Barnesian ensemble using the arcane tools of an imaginary naturalist. In Dion’s words, his piece begs the question, “What if Dr. Barnes applied his aesthetic and methodology to natural history rather than art history?" The artist also asks viewers to consider the “destructive” nature of collecting, or what happens when an object moves from the world into a collector’s personal microcosm.

In an immersive large-scale floor piece entitled Scene I: The Garden. Enter Mrs. Barnes, Judy Pfaff plays on the tension in Barnes’s ensembles between order and disorder. Towering steel structures and fluorescent bulbs evoke the collector’s strict symmetry, while a sprawling chandelier suggests a certain disobedience of the system. Of her artistic process, Pfaff says, “I find so many similarities between my art-making and Barnes's collecting. I pull inspiration from so many different sources." Many elements of the piece evoke plants and gardens, a reference to the importance of Laura Barnes and the Barnes Arboretum in the collector’s aesthetic. 

For his work Trace, Fred Wilson creates a series of small rooms—a museum within a museum—in which he displays “readymade ensembles” and juxtapositions of rarely-seen objects from Barnes storage in a playful remix of Dr. Barnes’s ideas. The exhibition also includes a “sound collage” featuring music native of the African tribes that created many of the sculptures and masks in the Barnes African collection. Several weeks into the exhibition, the sound element will extend into the Collection Gallery, where the artist uses music to create a dialogue with the objects on display, much as Dr. Barnes did in his lifetime. Dr. Barnes had a great affinity for music, which not only played a significant role in his personal and intellectual life but also in the educational program of the Foundation. "I am greatly inspired by Dr. Barnes—his passion, intellect, love of art, respect for artists and desire for social change,” says Wilson. “In his own unique way, he put his money where his mouth was.” Wilson’s piece marks the first time a contemporary artist has introduced sound into the Barnes Foundation’s special exhibition space, as well as the first time Dr. Barnes’s own music will be played in the Collection Gallery as part of a special exhibition.

The show will also include an installation designed by Dr. Barnes in the early 20th century. Called The Dutch Room, the installation was disassembled in the mid-1990s to allow for the construction of an elevator in Merion. The works of art from The Dutch Room have recently undergone conservation and will be presented to the public for the first time in over two decades; the room will also serve as an example of Barnes’s display methods in the company of the three contemporary responses. 

Curated by Martha Lucy, Barnes Foundation Consulting Curator and Assistant Professor of Art History at Drexel University in Philadelphia, The Order of Things will serve to better orient visitors to the Barnes Foundation, offering an explanation of the philosophy behind the organization of the collection and of the ensembles’ importance in the history of museum practice. At the same time—and in keeping with Barnes’s commitment to the development of critical thinking skills—this exhibition invites visitors to think actively about the display of collections more generally. The exhibition is accompanied by an illustrated catalogue featuring an essay and catalogue entries by Lucy, as well as contributions from artists, critics, collectors, scholars, who each add their ideas about Dr. Barnes and his ensembles ($19.95).  

Photography will be permitted in the special exhibition space for The Order of Things.  

The Order of Things is sponsored by

Wilmington Trust

Contributing sponsor for the exhibition is


With generous funding from the William Penn Foundation.

About the Artists

Mark Dion was born in Massachusetts in 1961 and currently lives in New York City. He received a BFA and an honorary doctorate from the University of Hartford’s Hartford Art School, Connecticut, in 1986 and 2003, respectively. He also studied at the School of Visual Arts in New York from 1982-1984, and participated in the Whitney Museum of American Art’s Independent Study Program from 1984-1985. Dion has received numerous awards, including the ninth annual Larry Aldrich Award (2001) and the Smithsonian American Art Museum's Lucelia Artist Award (2008). Throughout the past two decades, his work has been the subject of major exhibitions worldwide. His work can be found in the collections of the Metropolitan Museum of Art, New York; Tate Gallery, London; Museum of Contemporary Art, Los Angeles; Museum of Modern Art, New York; Centre Georges Pompidou, Paris; Hamburger Kunsthalle, Hamburg; Harvard University Art Museums, Massachusetts; and the Israel Museum of Art, Jerusalem, among others.

Judy Pfaff was born in London, England, in 1946. She received a BFA from Washington University, Saint Louis in 1971, and an MFA from Yale University in 1973. Pfaff is the recipient of an Academy Member Fellowship, American Academy of Arts & Sciences (2013); Anonymous Was A Woman Award (2013); MacArthur Fellowship (2004); Guggenheim Fellowship (1983); and National Endowment for the Arts grants (1979, 1986). She is also a member of the American Academy of Arts and Letters. Pfaff has had numerous solo exhibitions and group shows in major galleries and museums in the United States and abroad. Commissions include Pennsylvania Convention Center Public Arts Projects, Philadelphia; large-scale site-specific sculpture, GTE Corporation, Irving, Texas; installation: vernacular abstraction, Wacoal, Tokyo, Japan; and set design, Brooklyn Academy of Music. Her work is in the permanent collections of the Museum of Modern Art, New York; the Whitney Museum of American Art, New York; the Brooklyn Museum of Art, New York; the Detroit Institute of Arts; among others. Pfaff was also theMilton Avery Distinguished Professor of Art, Bard College (1989, 1991).

Fred Wilson was born in the Bronx, New York, in 1954. Wilson has created site-specific installations in collaboration with museums and cultural institutions throughout North America, the Caribbean, Europe, the Middle East, and Asia. His work encourages viewers to reconsider social and historical narratives and raises critical questions about the politics of erasure and exclusion. Beginning with the groundbreaking and critically acclaimed exhibition Mining the Museum (1992-93) at the Maryland Historical Society in Baltimore, Wilson has juxtaposed and re-contextualized existing objects to create new installations, which alter their traditional meanings or interpretations. In 2003, Wilson represented the United States at the 50th Venice Biennale with the solo exhibition, Fred Wilson: Speak of Me as I Am. His many accolades include the prestigious John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation “Genius” Grant (1999), among others.

About the Curator

Martha Lucy is Barnes Foundation Consulting Curator and Assistant Professor of Art History at Drexel University in Philadelphia. Dr. Lucy is the co-author of Renoir in the Barnes Foundation (Yale University Press, 2012), the first scholarly book about the Barnes’s enormous Renoir collection, and of Masterworks: The Barnes Foundation (Rizzoli). Her articles and reviews have appeared in the Oxford Art Journal, the Revue d’Art Canadienne, and Burlington Magazine. Dr. Lucy has also contributed essays to several exhibition catalogues, including Renoir in the Twentieth Century (Philadelphia Museum of Art); The Steins Collect: Matisse Picasso and the Parisian Avant-Garde (Metropolitan Museum), which won several awards; and most recently William Glackens (Barnes Foundation). Dr. Lucy’s research centers on the art and visual culture of late nineteenth/early twentieth-century France. She has a wide range of scholarly interests, from evolutionary themes in the work of Odilon Redon to anti-modern currents in modern European painting. Her current research focuses on the sense of touch during the industrial age. 

About the Barnes Foundation

The Barnes Foundation ( was established by Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” The Barnes holds one of the finest collections of post-impressionist and early modern paintings, with extensive works by Pierre-Auguste Renoir, Paul Cézanne, Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Henri Rousseau, Amedeo Modigliani, Chaim Soutine, and Giorgio de Chirico; American masters Charles Demuth, William Glackens, Horace Pippin and Maurice Prendergast; old master paintings; important examples of African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry and textiles; American paintings and decorative arts; and antiquities from the Mediterranean region and Asia. While most collections are grouped by chronology, style, or genre, art at the Barnes is arranged in ensembles structured according to light, line, color, and space - principles that founder Albert C. Barnes called "the universal language of art.” The Barnes Foundation’s Art and Aesthetics programs, including courses, workshops, tours, First Fridays, Young Professionals Nights, tastings, and family programs, engage diverse audiences. These programs, held at the Philadelphia campus, online, and in Philadelphia communities, advance the Foundation’s mission through progressive, experimental, and interdisciplinary teaching and learning. The Barnes Foundation is open Wednesday – Monday, 10am – 5pm, and also 6pm – 9pm every First Friday and select Friday evenings. Tickets can easily be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215-278-7200. For tips and assistance planning your visit, please visit our website.

The Barnes Arboretum, at the Merion campus, contains more than 2,000 varieties of trees and woody plants, many of them rare. Founded in the 1880s by Joseph Lapsley Wilson and expanded under the direction of Mrs. Laura L. Barnes, the collection includes a fern-leaf beech (Fagus sylvatica ‘Laciniata’), a dove tree (Davidia involucrata), a monkey-puzzle tree (Araucaria araucana), and a redwood (Sequoia sempervirens). Other important plant collections include lilacs, peonies, Stewartias and magnolias. The Horticulture school at the Barnes Foundation in Merion has offered a comprehensive three-year certificate course in the botanical sciences, horticulture, garden aesthetics, and design since its establishment in 1940 by Mrs. Barnes. Horticulture workshops and lectures are also offered regularly. The Arboretum is open Friday – Sunday, 10am – 4pm, from May 1 – November 1. Tickets can easily be purchased on-site, online, or by calling 215-278-7200.



Jan Rothschild, Senior Vice President for Communications
Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications

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