One of the most exciting places for art lovers is in Philadelphia.

The legendary collection of the (Albert  C.) Barnes Foundation has relocated to central Philly from suburban Merion.  It promises to be among the year’s major U.S. art events.
This is one of the world’s premiere collections of impressionist, post-impressionist and early modern paintings. We salute the new museum for its splendid art as well as the architectural brilliance of the $150 million building housing it.
(Dr. Albert C. Barnes)
Barnes’ display methods were highly unorthodox when he began his foundation in the 1920s. European master works were grouped with African masks; cabinets of Egyptian, Greek and Roman jewelry and tchotchkes; American Indian pottery; and pieces of Pennsylvania-German furniture. Door keys and wrought-iron curios accent the eclectic arrangements, which he called “ensembles.”  His intent was to stress the continuity of great art through cultures and the ages.
In his will, Barnes said that nothing in his collection should be rearranged. Twenty-four galleries with mustard-colored walls faithfully re-create the intimate scale and configuration of the former site. Just as before, there are no labeling placards. To identify artworks, you have to consult printed sheet guides.
(Renoir - Two  Girls Seated) 
Not to be missed are Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181 works and the world’s largest single group of his paintings), Paul Cezanne (69, including “The Card Players”) and Henri Matisse (59, including “The Dance” and “The Joy of Life.”)  Also on display are works by Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, Claude Monet, Henri Rosseau and Amedeo Modigliani as well as Old Masters and early   20th-century American paintings.
A special exhibit offers insights into the character and philosophy of Barnes (1872-1951). From a modest background, he became a self-made millionaire in the pharmaceutical industry.  He was a “colorful, irascible personality,” according to the manuscripts, press clippings and photos on view. He had an affinity for African Americans and their art. He believed that art appreciation and education were keys to enrichment of “the common man.”
The collection is housed in a 93,000-square-foot, rectangular building that’s monumental without an air of self-importance.  Walls in large public halls are covered with limestone and wool felt for a templelike effect. Architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien designed its two floors to be environmentally friendly. It’s all neatly integrated into a 4.5-acre campus designed by Laurie Olin. Ornamental trees, shrubbery, reflecting pools and a 40-foot steel totem evoke a vest-pocket oasis.
You can easily spend a day exploring the galleries, grounds and have lunch at a sit-down restaurant or snacks in the tiny café. The new location on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is more accessible than the old Merion site and can accommodate many more visitors. Some 250,000 are expected this year.
General admission, by timed ticket, is $18. For information: www.barnesfoundation.org; (866) 849-7056.
Reviewed by Victor Zak


Masterpieces from the Musee National Picasso, Paris 
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