Thursday, September 30, 2010

"How do you GIVE A ROOM a little HEART and SOUL?"

"Books.  They're intimate and revealing.  My very first client was a great reader, and she had this magnificent library with thousands of books in vertical stacks.  Some were used as stands.  Some were used as tables.  Nothing was arranged properly.  It looked amazing.

Schuyler Samperton
 "Family photographs, a dog, and a sofa you can vacuum."

"Using a room gives it heart and soul. People never use their living rooms. You've got to take it back, give it another purpose rather than just entertaining. Put your easel or drafting table in it like Jackie O did. Put your computer in it. Or put a big, double-wide wicker chaise lounge next to the fireplace with a big mohair blanket at the end and make it your prime napping spot."

"All those subliminal things you don't really see but experience, like solid wood doors with solid brass hardware.  And there's nothing like real hardwood floors -- that lovely creak.
"Red rooms always have heart and soul."
"A strong point of view.  I know a couple who collect George Nakashima furniture and Swedish modern.  I had a client and everything she collected was English Arts and Crafts.  When you step into their rooms, you're stepping into their vision."
"Objects imbued with memories."

"Mucking it up.  If it's a catalog-perfect modern room, bring home an old neoclassical chair with three-quarters of the gold leaf flaking off.  Put some Lulu DK or Paul Smith fabric on it so that it feels very particular."

"Good old Oriental rugs
give a beautiful soul to a room."

"A real fire going; a cashmere throw; pomegranates in a wooden bowl; walnuts and a nutcracker; scented Diptyque candles (Figuier in summer and Cannelle in winter); stacks of books; and a nice vodka on the rocks."

"The items you love...
the things that make you happy every time you see them."

All quotes gratefully reproduced from House Beautiful Magazine's column,
"The Last Words."

Monday, September 6, 2010

The Art of the Steal: The Barnes Foundation

On Saturday night I saw
"The Art of the Steal." 
Originally released in February 2010, 
this film provides a fascinating albeit biased account of 
Dr. Albert C. Barnes' private,
multi-billion dollar art collection
near Philadelphia.

It is slated to be moved
five miles down the road
to Philadelphia's city center by 2012.

Dr. Albert C. Barnes photographed inside his Foundation,
before Georges Seurat's Models and Paul Cézanne's Card Players.

 "The documentary is a fascinating look into the world of art vs. the commodity of art.

It explores the cozy relationship of politicians and 'non-profit' billion-dollar 
charitable foundations.

There are issues of race, money, power, law and politics all dancing on the grave 

of Albert Barnes."

- Lucindaville Blog
The Barnes Foundation, exterior

In short, ALBERT BARNES (1872-1951) came from a low-income 

Philadelphia, PA neighborhood.  He became a multi-millionaire through his own pharmaceutical firm's inventions and sales.
Barnes' passion was collecting Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and Early Modernist art; 
his collection has been called
"the best in the world of its kind."

The Music Lesson, 1917 by Henri Matisse

In 1922, Albert Barnes created the Barnes Foundation where he presented his collection as an educational institution for the public. Barnes wrote several books about art appreciation; his own in particular.  His own intricate system for displaying artwork for didactic purposes has been highly criticized as an eccentric and obsolete means of display.

Barnes developed specific systems for displaying his collection
of some 8,000 art works:

"Appreciation of works of art requires organized effort and systematic study. Art appreciation can no more be absorbed by aimless wandering in galleries than can surgery be learned by casual visits to a hospital." -Albert Barnes

The Barnes Foundation, interior

"Barnes had no qualms about mixing media and intermingling traditions - East and West, tribal grouping and haute epoque...His dynamic groupings of old and new masters, juxtapositions that challenge students to see connections and draw relationships among often seemingly disparate traditions."
- Great French Paintings from the Barnes Foundation, Knopf-Lincoln 1993.

M. Loulou, 1890 by Paul Gauguin

Barnes' paintings alone are
estimated at  $25 billion

and include an astounding

181  works by Pierre-Auguste RENOIR,

69  by Paul CEZANNE,

59  by Henri MATISSE, and

46  by Pablo PICASSO.

Joseph Etienne Roulin, 1889 by Vincent Van Gogh

Barnes' will clearly stipulated
that his collection
"n e v e r   b e   s o l d, 
l o a n e d,   o r   m o v e d."

 The Barnes Foundation, exterior: African detail at Building Entrance
"Barnes wasn't the first American to acquire African art, 
he was the first to develop a comprehensive collection of it."  
-Christa Clarke, curatorial consultant for the Barnes Foundation.

By the 1990's, The Barnes Foundation was running out of funds.

The Board of Trustees decided to go against Barnes' wishes - that the collection never be moved - in order to raise funds for its endowment.  A collection of 72 pieces made an "around the world tour" which earned $10 million for the Barnes Foundation.  In a few years' time, however, the endowment was almost depleted.

It would seem that 
Albert Barnes' crucial mistake 
was failing to establish 
a Board of Trustees 
FIT to carry out HIS wishes. 

As the Foundation became vulnerable yet again,
"help" was offered. 

would raise $100 million to support 
the Barnes Foundation...


The Barnes Foundation Collection 
m u s t   b e   m o v e d  --  permanently.

Its new location would be amongst Philadelphia's art museums, 

five miles up the road.

Chrysanthymums, c. 1900 by Paul Cézanne

describes the move as a takeover:

'Foundations are nonprofit corporations.
We're used to hearing about corporate
takeovers with for-profit corporations.
But this was a nonprofit corporate takeover.' "

Woman Walking in an Exotic Forest, 1905 by Henri Rousseau

Why not sell of one or two paintings (literally) to raise the $100 million so the Foundation might remain in place as Dr. Barnes' will so clearly stipulates?  If the Foundation's trust must be broken, this seems a preferable alternative to uprooting the entire installation.

Portrait of Jeanne Hébuterne Seated in Profile, 1918
by Amedeo Modigliani

A short film about the Barnes Foundation 
begins with these phrases:
"When we pass on, our efforts and contributions in this world will last forever.  Or so we hope. This may not be the case for Dr. Albert Barnes and his Foundation."
watch the video 

The Boat Studio, 1876 by Claude Monet

The film continues: "The Barnes Foundation's trustees...have significantly altered Dr. Barnes Indenture and Bylaws of his art education order to move the the Philadelphia Parkway [and is] anticipated to attract twice as many tourists and visitors and create much needed revenue for the Foundation's Endowment...but will contradict almost every objective that Dr. Barnes established for his foundation."
watch video part 2

Jeanne Durand-Ruel, 1876 by Pierre-Auguste Renoir 

The filmmaker suggests
the Barnes Foundation remain as is:

"The art collection
has an important relationship
to the original building and site."

"Barnes intentionally created
strict bylaws in order to
protect his collection
and secure its future."

"The Foundation is still
as Dr. Barnes envisioned it
and his presence
is felt in the galleries.

The facility allows for
a unique art experience that
visitors will not be able to replicate
in a new public museum on the Parkway."

The Joy of Life, 1905-1906 by Henri Matisse

Peter Schjeldahl, Head Art Critic
for The New Yorker, suggests that
"Altering so much as a molecule of one of the greatest art installations I have ever seen would be an aesthetic crime. It would also give hosts of my fellow art lovers access to treasures that they might otherwise never see. And it’s not as if aesthetic crimes don’t happen all the time. Life goes on. But something extraordinary would be lost in the event." (continued here)

The Arboretum, the Barnes Foundation grounds

"There’s just one small problem:
I don’t own the Barnes collection.
Neither do you.
Neither do the well-intentioned civic stalwarts who covet its paintings. All these works belong to a foundation that was  specifically chartered as a school rather than a museum." (continued here)
from "The Devil and Albert Barnes" by Dan Rottenberg

 inside the Barnes Foundation, art includes "The Dance" by Henri Matisse

Similar, privately-owned collections 
have not only survived 
but flourished as originally intended.  
These include 
the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston,
The Phillips Collection in Washington, DC, 
and the Frick Collection in New York City. 

Art historians, critics, architects and artists seem unanimously opposed to 
the plans to move Barnes' collection.  
I suppose Isabella Stewart Gardner was far-sighted in building her museum 
across the street from Boston's Museum of Fine Arts.


and learn about efforts to keep the collection in place


to stop the collection's removal

related articles

Robert Venturi, letter to Friends of the Barnes

by Lee Rosenbaum, The New York Times

by Christopher Knight, The Los Angeles Times

by Peter Schjeldahl, The New Yorker

All images used in this post via the Barnes Foundation.