'Where Their Fakeness Is Self-Evident And Salable'

While trying not to steal his thunder, let me just post the awesomely vivid ending to LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne's review of Williams + Tsien's unavoidably flawed Philadelphia museum building now housing the art-centered educational institution known as The Barnes Foundation:

Imagine if the Barnes trustees, in the name of improved access to a supremely great but historically cloistered collection, had declared they were going to produce replicas of its paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Modigliani and Van Gogh and hang those in a new building on the parkway.

The howls of protest would have been loud and immediate. The idea wouldn't have lasted five minutes.

And yet the notion persists that re-creating buildings is somehow more reasonable or at least less obvious and that new rooms can be made to impersonate old ones without much aesthetic risk. That copies of paintings belong in gift shops and on refrigerators, where their fakeness is self-evident and salable, while copies of buildings can go blithely along pretending to be real. That architecture somehow is different.

Memo from Philadelphia: It's not. [Emphasis added for awesomeness.]

I got a million and 99 problems with The Barnes Foundation, but copying ain't one. Barnes's spaces and installations are geared entirely around the pedagogical system of close looking and cross-referencing which he oversaw. Which makes for a suboptimal museum because it was supposed to be a non-museum by design.

Meanwhile, I love that this fakeness all happens next door to the Rodin Museum, which is full of copies, thereby blithely refuting Hawthorne's analogy without making it any less valid.

Architecture review: A poor replica of Barnes Foundation museum [latimes]

Since 2001 here at greg.org, I've been blogging about the creative process—my own and those of people who interest me. That mostly involves filmmaking, art, writing, research, and the making thereof.

Many thanks to the Creative Capital | Warhol Foundation Arts Writers Program for supporting greg.org that time.

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first published: May 14, 2012.

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