Closing The Barnes Door After The Horses Already Left

Great art's demands are more important than the wishes of the mere collector who bought it. The fabric of our culture has been rent in twain, and no one will donate to a museum ever again. I've heard it all already.

Frankly, I think they should have left the Barnes Collection where and as Barnes left it. It was the Barnes Foundation board that needed to be packed up and transplanted to the juvenile detention facility (conveniently, the future site of the Barnes Museum). Those inept, self-important idiots ran that place into the ground, creating unnecessary crises through decades of obstinate mismanagement. They have betrayed Barnes' own legacy and wishes, and they keep on doing it.

Barnes was crazy, a crackpot, a rude, difficult parvenu, so what? He had a tremendous eye for art (yeah, sure, there are an awful lot of mediocre Renoirs, and even more portraits of fleshy nude women), yet he was snubbed royally and mocked by the Philadelphia establishment of his day. His Collection and the restrictions he placed on it were a reaction to this small-minded and snobbish mistreatment.

Decades later, the judge just handed Barnes's legacy--which nobody in Philadelphia wanted during Barnes's lifetime--over to the same names that once shunned him. If only Barnes had lived long enough to see Scarface--"First you get the money, then you get the power, then you get the women."--he'd have realized what step he was skipping.

Does it matter where this painting hangs? [Um, Yes, Roberta. NYT]
Tyler has a Barnes Newsraising [Modernartnotes]

Since 2001 here at, 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 that time.

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first published: December 15, 2004.

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