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The Barnes Foundation Granted Permission to Lend Paintings from Its Collection to Temporary Exhibitions to Advance Educational Mission

Loans will be selected to extend reach and impact of Barnes educational programs while preserving ensemble display of the collection

Philadelphia, PA, August 9, 2023—The Barnes Foundation’s Board of Trustees has announced that the Barnes has received permission from the Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County to lend paintings from its collection galleries on a limited basis to temporary exhibitions to advance the institution’s educational mission. The Court stated in its ruling that making such loans today is in keeping with Dr. Barnes’ stated mission “to promot[e] the advancement of education and appreciation of the fine arts.” Dr. Barnes selectively made loans of works in the collection during his lifetime.

The Barnes Foundation has been restricted from lending paintings from its collection galleries under the provisions in its Indenture of Trust (the document stating the terms of Dr. Barnes’s gift of the collection to the Foundation). The Orphans’ Court of Montgomery County has granted permission to modify these provisions to allow a limited number of paintings at a given time to be included in temporary exhibitions. The carefully considered inclusion of paintings from the collection galleries in temporary exhibitions, including those in the Barnes’s own Roberts Gallery, will significantly extend the reach and impact of Barnes educational programs and scholarship. Loans will be limited to preserve the visitor experience of the permanent collection. The ensembles themselves will not be reorganized at any time, including while any works are on loan.

Placing works of art in new “conversations” with other works is a critical aspect of education, research, and public access. It is a long-standing practice in the fields of art and education and is a mark of an intellectually dynamic institution that is committed to fostering new ideas and public engagement. Being able to include paintings from the collection in the Barnes’s own special exhibitions will enhance the educational value of those exhibitions and foster new scholarship. Lending works from the collection to exhibitions at other museums will expand international research, introduce diverse perspectives on the collection and under-studied works in it, and ensure the story of Dr. Barnes as a collector and educator is more broadly entered in contemporary discourse and the historical record.

“The Barnes can now significantly improve its educational program and impact, while maintaining the ‘ensemble’ installation of the collection and advancing our traditional in-gallery education program,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation. “Judicious lending—something Dr. Barnes himself did during his lifetime—will allow the Barnes to remain vibrant and relevant for contemporary audiences and those of the future. Instructors and curators will now be able to share more expansive information about the artists and the world in which they lived, and how their work continues to be relevant today. Like the original educational experience when Dr. Barnes and Violette de Mazia moved works of art to create new juxtapositions for students, we are excited about the enhanced educational opportunities that will result from seeing Barnes paintings in new contexts.”

“Since the Barnes was established over 100 years ago, education has been at the heart of its mission,” says Aileen Roberts, Chair of the Barnes Foundation Board of Trustees. “Dr. Barnes envisioned the institution as a classroom where people of all backgrounds and walks of life would have access to original works of art and could enhance critical thinking skills through the practice of close looking. Dr. Barnes’s vision was broad, and his goal was for his educational program to have significant and wide-reaching impact. With this permission from the Court, the Barnes now has the ability to tell the full story of the paintings in the permanent collection by allowing them to be included in scholarly exhibitions, at the Barnes and at other institutions. This is critical to the advancement of the institution’s educational mission.”

The Barnes Foundation is a nonprofit cultural and educational institution that shares its unparalleled art collection with the public, organizes special exhibitions, and presents programming that fosters new ways of thinking about human creativity. The Barnes collection is displayed in ensembles that integrate art and objects from across cultures and time periods, overturning traditional hierarchies and revealing universal elements of human expression. Home to one of the world’s finest collections of impressionist, post-impressionist, and modern paintings—including the largest groups of paintings by Pierre-Auguste Renoir and Paul Cézanne in existence—the Barnes brings together renowned works by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, medieval, and Native American art as well as metalwork, furniture, and decorative art.

The Barnes Foundation was established by Dr. Albert C. Barnes in 1922 to “promote the advancement of education and the appreciation of the fine arts and horticulture.” A visionary collector and pioneering educator, Dr. Barnes was also a fierce advocate for the civil rights of African Americans, women, and the economically marginalized. Committed to racial equality and social justice, he established a scholarship program to support young Black artists, writers, and musicians to further their education. Dr. Barnes became actively involved in the Harlem Renaissance, during which he collaborated with philosopher Alain Locke and Charles S. Johnson, the scholar and activist, to promote awareness of the artistic value of African art.

Since moving to Philadelphia in 2012, the Barnes Foundation has expanded its commitment to diversity, inclusion, and social justice, teaching visual literacy in groundbreaking ways; investing in original scholarship relating to its collection; and enhancing accessibility throughout every facet of its programs.

The Barnes Foundation is situated in Lenapehoking, the ancestral homeland of the Lenape people. Read our Land Acknowledgment.

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Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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