Critic: Barnes Foundation move fueled by ignorance
The problem is compounded when most readers are accustomed to museum galleries that have almost nothing in common with the Barnes. Sui generis, constituting a class of its own, the Barnes Foundation is literally incomparable.
That's what makes the cover story in the May 31 issue of the Weekly Standard so important. Art critic Lance Esplund has devoted more than 8,500 words to a cogent, argumentative, sometimes disconcerting and often enlightening essay on the place. The move now being engineered by assorted Pennsylvania blockheads is characterized by the cover's loud banner-headline, "An Act of Vandalism." Meanwhile, the inevitably deleterious effect is conveyed in the story's quietly devastating title: "No Museum Left Behind."
Esplund also shows why claims of the supposed benefit of bringing Barnes' art to more people at a tourist venue are sheer nonsense. "Barnes wanted to empower people to experience art — and, by extension, life — at its most profound levels," he writes, discussing numerous examples in depth. Profundity of experience is tough to pull off in a tourist trap jostling with crowds.
On art, Esplund is a critic with whom I don't agree about much. And I think the Weekly Standard is, typically, a magazine best picked up with long-handled tongs while wearing rubber gloves, protective goggles and a fully functioning horse-puckey detector.
But not this time. Historic preservation is always a tough sell, but Esplund has rendered an important service. Read the whole piece here.
Photo: Barnes Foundation. Credit: Tim Shaffer / Reuters