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The Barnes Foundation to Reopen on January 8 Elijah Pierce’s America Exhibition Extended

Continued health & safety measures for staff and visitors Elijah Pierce’s America now through January 18, and extended hours

Philadelphia, PA, January 4, 2021—The Barnes Foundation has announced it will reopen to the public on Friday, January 8, 2021, following the recent temporary closure mandated by state and city officials to limit the spread of COVID-19, in effect since November 20, 2020. The exhibition Elijah Pierce’s America, originally slated to close on January 10, 2021, has been extended through January 18. Extended hours on select days will provide additional opportunities for visitors to experience the exhibition before it closes. Comprehensive health and safety precautions continue, ensuring the well-being of staff and visitors.

“We are deeply thankful to be ringing in the new year by welcoming visitors back to the Barnes,” says Thom Collins, Neubauer Family Executive Director and President. “Our planning for reopening this past summer was thorough; we reimagined every aspect of our operations to ensure the safety and well-being of our staff and visitors, and we have confidence in the measures we introduced. We are continually grateful to our frontline and facilities teams, educators and docents, and supporters near and far. It is with hearts full of gratitude and minds focused on a brighter future that we reopen our doors and celebrate the power of art and community.”

The Barnes Foundation’s opening schedule is listed below:

  • Friday, January 8, 11 am–5 pm (regular hours)
  • Saturday, January 9, 11 am–5 pm
  • Sunday, January 10, 11 am–5 pm
  • Monday, January 11, 11 am–5 pm
  • Thursday, January 14, 11 am–5 pm (ADDITIONAL OPEN DAY)
  • Friday, January 15, 9 am–6 pm (EXTENDED HOURS)
  • Saturday, January 16, 9 am–6 pm (EXTENDED HOURS)
  • Sunday, January 17, 11 am–5 pm (regular hours)
  • Monday, January 18, 11 am–5 pm

After its initial opening days, the Barnes will be open Friday–Monday, with its regular hours of 11 am–5 pm, with 10–11 am reserved for members. Please refer to our website for the most up-to-date information regarding hours. Advance reservations are strongly encouraged as building capacity continues to be limited to facilitate social distancing. Member and general admission tickets will be available to reserve online or by phone as of 10 am on Monday, January 4.

“We are delighted to extend Elijah Pierce’s America through January 18 to allow more people to experience the joy of Pierce’s work,” says Nancy Ireson, Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator. “We are grateful to the supporters of this exhibition, the first extensive showing of the artist outside his home city of Columbus in over 25 years, and to the lenders who have made this extension possible. We look forward to welcoming visitors back to the Barnes to draw inspiration from Pierce’s remarkable story and the wonders of our permanent collection.”

Private one-hour tours of the Barnes collection and Elijah Pierce’s America are offered each morning for up to four and five guests, respectively, and include post-tour collection and exhibition access. Reservations are required, and tours must be requested at least three days in advance by calling 215.278.7200. Also, daily pop-up talks by the Art Team take place in the Annenberg Court and galleries, offering a great way to explore the collection and learn something new. Our free digital guide, Barnes Focus, is designed for self-touring in the Barnes collection. Guests can navigate to on their mobile device and simply focus the camera on a painting or object to learn more about it.

Continued health and safety precautions and changes to on-site operations include:

  • Staff and visitors are required to wear a mask/face covering and visit a safety checkpoint before entering the building.
  • Contactless temperature checks for staff and visitors are conducted prior to entry.
  • Advance reservations are encouraged to facilitate contactless ticketing and payment.
  • The number of visitors in the building is limited, with timed ticketing to help facilitate social distancing.
  • A one-way flow through the Barnes collection, Roberts Gallery, and some other areas ensures calm and crowd-free pathways.
  • Staff and visitors are expected to practice social distancing.
  • Rigorous cleaning protocols are in place, with all public spaces and surfaces cleaned and disinfected throughout the day, and hand-sanitizing stations are installed throughout the building.
  • Plexiglass partitions are installed at the ticketing desk, which is located in the Guest Services Center on 20th Street, between the Parkway and Callowhill Street; coat check; the Barnes Shop; and the Garden Restaurant.
  • On-site public programs—such as First Friday and Artist Bash—are paused until further notice. However, virtual offerings remain available through our website and platforms, including online Barnes classes, the collection online, and Barnes Takeout YouTube video series. Also continuing is Facing Change, our new online speaker series and community dialogue uniting artists, scholars, and activists for multicultural and intergenerational conversations about race in America. All virtual programming details can be found on our website under Barnes from Home and What’s On.

Full details regarding our new health and safety protocols can be found on our website.

Elijah Pierce’s America
Extended Through January 18, 2021
On view in the Roberts Gallery

Elijah Pierce’s America, a landmark exhibition featuring the rich and varied sculpture of woodcarver Elijah Pierce (1892–1984), is the first major retrospective of Pierce’s work to be presented outside his home city of Columbus, Ohio, for more than 25 years. Born on a farm in Baldwyn, Mississippi, Pierce joined the Great Migration and settled in Columbus in 1924. After years spent working as a barber and preacher, he opened his own barbershop in 1954, which became a social hub and functioned as his studio. Pierce created a unique body of work over the course of 50 years, producing his virtuoso woodcarvings in moments between cutting hair. His work features remarkable narratives—religious parables, autobiographical scenes, episodes from American politics—and includes figures from sports and film, with subjects ranging from Richard Nixon to Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., and from Hank Aaron to Warren Beatty. Pierce once said, “I’d carve anything that was a picture in my mind. I thought a pocketknife was about the best thing I’d ever seen.”

Co-curated by Nancy Ireson, Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator at the Barnes, and Zoé Whitley, Director of Chisenhale Gallery in London, Elijah Pierce’s America features more than 100 rarely seen works created between 1923 and 1979, including painted bas-reliefs and freestanding carvings. Using wood, corrugated cardboard, crepe paper, house paint, aluminum foil, glitter, and rhinestones, Pierce created extraordinary objects that expressed his faith, values, and perspective on the world. His art reflects the complexities of life in 20th-century America.

Pierce’s woodcarvings strike a chord with the diverse aesthetics present in the Barnes collection. As a collector, Dr. Barnes was interested in art for its formal characteristics and was not concerned with artists’ social origin. As a result, the Barnes collection is home to many works by artists with little or no formal art school training, including Paul Gauguin, Horace Pippin, and Henri Rousseau. In his display, Dr. Barnes placed renowned canvases by Matisse, Picasso, and Cézanne alongside household items he collected, such as furniture and wrought-iron objects, overturning traditional hierarchies to reveal universal elements of human expression.

This exhibition is co-curated by Nancy Ireson, Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator at the Barnes Foundation, and Zoé Whitley, Director of Chisenhale Gallery, London.

Elijah Pierce received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts in 1982, a lifetime achievement award recognizing how his art demonstrates and reflects our nation’s living cultural heritage. His work has been shown in museums such as the Corcoran Gallery of Art, Washington, DC; the High Museum of Art, Atlanta; and the Museum of Modern Art, New York. Pierce’s work is in the collections of the Smithsonian Institution, Washington, DC; the California African American Museum, Los Angeles; and the Columbus Museum of Art, Columbus, Ohio—the largest repository of Pierce’s work—among others.

Dr. Nancy Ireson is the Barnes Foundation’s Deputy Director for Collections and Exhibitions & Gund Family Chief Curator. A specialist in European art of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, Ireson began her post at the Barnes in August 2018. On completion of a PhD at the Courtauld Institute of Art, she began her curatorial career at the National Gallery, London, before taking on roles at the Victoria & Albert Museum and the Courtauld Gallery. Ireson was the Rothman Family Associate Curator at the Art Institute of Chicago before becoming Curator, International Art at Tate Modern, London. Notable exhibitions she has curated and co­curated include Cezanne’s Card Players (Courtauld Gallery, 2010), Toulouse-Lautrec and Jane Avril: Beyond the Moulin Rouge (Courtauld Gallery, 2011), Temptation: The Demons of James Ensor (Art Institute of Chicago, 2014), Modigliani(Tate Modern, 2017), and Picasso 1932: Love, Fame, Tragedy (Tate Modern, 2018). She has published and lectured on a wide range of related subjects.

Dr. Zoé Whitley is the Director of Chisenhale Gallery, London. Most recently, Whitley served as Senior Curator at the Hayward Gallery in London, prior to which she was Curator, International Art at Tate Modern. She has conceived numerous site-specific artist commissions, film screenings, and special projects internationally. Exhibitions to her credit include curating the British Pavilion at the 2019 Venice Biennale and co-curating the acclaimed Soul of a Nation: Art in the Age of Black Power (Tate Modern, 2017). Author of The Graphic World of Paul Peter Piechand the children’s book Meet the Artist: Frank Bowling, she has also written exhibition catalogues, essays, and interviews on Grace Wales Bonner, Lynette Yiadom-Boakye, Lubaina Himid, Alexander McQueen, and Jack Whitten, among others. Whitley was named one of Apollo Magazine’s 40 Under 40 Thinkers in Europe, and one of Artlyst’s 2019 “100 Alternative Powerhouses” in the not-for-profit contemporary art world.

Co-published by the Barnes Foundation and Paul Holberton Publishing, London, the fully illustrated exhibition catalogue features essays by co-curators Nancy Ireson and Zoé Whitley, as well as contributions from Dr. Sampada Aranke of the School of the Art Institute of Chicago, artist Theaster Gates, and Michael D. Hall, Adjunct Curator of Folk and Self-Taught Art at the Columbus Museum of Art in Ohio. As the first substantial book on Elijah Pierce to be published in more than 25 years, this catalogue marks a new phase of the artist’s critical reception, building on the pioneering work of the Columbus Museum of Art in the 1980s and 1990s.

Elijah Pierce’s America is sponsored by

Northern Trust
Comcast NBCUniversal
The National Endowment for the Arts

Additional support for the exhibition is provided by Jeanne Ruddy and Victor F. Keen, Amy A. Fox and Daniel H. Wheeler, Jack and Barb Hafner, Pamela and James Hill, John J. Medveckis, Lisa Roberts and David Seltzer, Frank and Kathleen M. Seidman, and other individuals.

The publication is made possible by a generous grant from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Foundation.

Ongoing support for exhibitions comes from the Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz Exhibition Fund, the Horace W. Goldsmith Foundation, and Aileen and Brian Roberts.

In addition, support for all exhibitions comes from contributors to the Barnes Foundation Exhibition Fund:

Joan Carter and John Aglialoro, Julia and David Fleischner, Leigh and John Middleton, Jeanette and Joe Neubauer

John Alchin and Hal Marryatt, Christine and Michael Angelakis, Jill and Sheldon Bonovitz, Lois and Julian Brodsky, N. Judith Broudy, Laura and Bill Buck, Elaine W. Camarda and A. Morris Williams, Jr., Gloria and John Drosdick, Eugene and Michelle Dubay, Christine and George Henisee, Lisa D. Kabnick and John H. McFadden, Marguerite Lenfest, Maribeth and Steven Lerner, Victoria McNeil Le Vine, Leslie Miller and Richard Worley Foundation, Hilarie and Mitchell Morgan, Kay and Michael Park, The Rittenhouse Hotel, Adele K. Schaeffer, Katie and Tony Schaeffer, Dr. and Mrs. Eugene E. Stark, Joan F. Thalheimer, van Beuren Charitable Foundation, Kirsten White, Anonymous.

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 canvases by Henri Matisse, Pablo Picasso, Amedeo Modigliani, and Vincent van Gogh, alongside African, Asian, ancient, and medieval 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 who wanted to further their education. Dr. Barnes was deeply interested in African American culture and 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 program. The Barnes’s current hours and ticket prices are listed on our website.

Deirdre Maher, Director of Communications
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