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

May 16–August 3, 2015

The Order of Things presented three large-scale installations by internationally renowned artists Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, and Fred Wilson. Each of these works, commissioned for the show, was a response to the unconventional way that Albert C. Barnes chose to display his collection. The exhibition also featured an installation designed by Barnes—a small room in the Merion gallery building that was replaced by an elevator shaft in the 1990s.

In designing his “ensembles” nearly a century ago, Barnes ignored the traditional rules of museum display, mixing modern paintings and old masters, furniture, metalwork, and household items. Formal concerns, rather than history or chronology, guided the organization of his collection. In overturning traditional categories of display, Barnes invented his own system for ordering the world. Much like an installation artist, he invited a different view of objects by shifting their context.

The Order of Things explained the philosophy behind the ensembles and their importance in the history of museum practice. At the same time—and in keeping with Dr. Barnes’s commitment to the development of critical thinking skills—the show invited thought about display in general. How are other museums organized? What meanings do their displays create? Are value systems and hierarchies implied in any presentation?

Curated by Martha Lucy, assistant professor, Drexel University; and consulting curator, Barnes Foundation.

Curtis-Barnes Collaboration

See the Curtis-Barnes collaborative composition Carrot Revolution composed by Gabrielle Smith.

Hear directly from the artists about the exhibition:



Mark Dion



Judy Pfaff



Fred Wilson


Famously Unorthodox: Barnes’s Wall Ensembles
Thursdays, June–September, 2–3 pm

Barnes as Installation Artist (members only)
April 18, 11 am–noon

The Order of Things – Installation Process (members only)
April 28, 6–8 pm

The Order of Things Opening Party
May 15, 6–9 pm

Young Professionals Night: The Summer Palette
June 12, 7–10 pm

Investigating the Order of Things: Conversation with Mark Dion, Fred Wilson, and curator Martha Lucy
July 11, 2-4 pm 

Conversation between Judy Pfaff and Guest Curator Martha Lucy
August 2, 3:30 - 4:30 pm


The Order of Things was sponsored by

Wilmington Trust

Contributing sponsor for the exhibition was


With generous funding from the William Penn Foundation.

Leadership gifts in support of the exhibition were given by
the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund and Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz,
Agnes Gund, Jane and Leonard Korman, Marsha and Jeffrey Perelman,
and Katherine and Keith L. Sachs.