April 22, 2013

field trip: the barnes foundation

approaching the Barnes Foundation
the Foundation's subtle signage
entering the Barnes' landscape
rounding the corner, approaching the entrance
crossing the bridge over the shallow pool 

the view to my right as I reach the entrance

sitting in the courtyard garden on the lower level

Talula's Garden 

the brunch menu

jalapeno-infused bloody mary + coffee 
the vegetarian eggs benedict 
Knowing the sordid tale behind the Barnes Foundation's highly controversial move to Center City Philadelphia, and having loved the original home of the collection on the outskirts of the city (making the trip that much more special), I had mixed feelings about visiting the new building. Our visit also came on the heels of MoMA's controversial announcement that they were planning on demolishing the former home of the American Folk Art Museum, another museum designed by the very same architects as the new Barnes, Tod Williams & Billie Tsien.

I had read the glowing reviews of the new building, so my expectations were high:
"The spectacular contemporary architecture cradles the modest graces of the Merion structure with an air of religious veneration," wrote Peter Schjeldahl in The New Yorker 
"At a moment when so many museums seem bent on turning themselves into entertainment and social centers, or frequently mount dry, overly academic exhibitions, the Barnes irrefutably foregrounds art and nonverbal visual experience," wrote Roberta Smith in the New York Times 
The building is a bit austere and ominous from the street, but once I entered the landscape surrounding the building, my experience shifted. The landscape was peaceful, gently and gracefully leading us into the arms of the museum. Once inside, the building continues that same feeling, with soaring skylights and large, open areas for contemplation and relaxation–something the former home was sorely missing (one of my favorite spots was an interior courtyard garden that was open to the sky and had a single bench for sitting).

Although the Foundation's officers violated Mr. Barnes' wishes by moving the collection, they did right by him in that they maintained the exact same installation and layout in the new galleries (and even positioned the galleries in the same orientation to the sun as at the original location). The collection looked as good, if not better, than I had remembered it. And it continued to surprise and delight me, with Paul KleeCharles DemuthHenri Rousseau and Georges Seurat among my favorites (you can explore the entire collection here on the Barnes website).

Great art & architecture begets great food. I would be remiss if I didn't tell you about our amazing brunch at Talula's Garden, a farm-to-table restaurant overlooking Washington Square, where I had a delicious vegetarian eggs benedict and a jalapeno-spiced bloody mary. It was so picture-perfect, I couldn't resist snapping a few of my own to share with you (even though, I admit, taking pictures of one's food in public is a bit cringe-worthy). I promise not to make it a habit.

1 comment:

  1. Love the photos and your description makes me want to make the trip myself. And the food at Talula's Garden was definitely picture worthy!