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Evelyn Yaari
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Unforunately, The Art of the Steal leaves the viewer with the impression that today, public access to the Barnes is very restricted. The fact is, anyone can go, but you have to reserve, just like you have to get timed tickets to major exhibitions or quality restaurants for that matter. They could have about the same number of people a year (180,000) in Merion as they project for the Parkway -- without spending $400 million for a replica that looks more like a prison than the prison that used to be there. The other thing is that The Barnes is much more than the amazing art collection. It truly is a piece of history and is already eligible for National Historic Landmark status, not for the art collection alone, but because of the revolutionary ideas about art appreciation and democracy that Barnes and Dewey used to make it. The gallery building has tremendous importance, too. It was not a mansion for Dr. Barnes at all. It was designed by Dr. Barnes in collaboration with Paul Philippe Cret, Philadelphia's most important architect from the 20th century. And the building was carefully renovated just a few years ago by Philadelphia's current architecture giants Robert Venturi and Denise Scott Brown. It's in beautiful shape. The thing is, taking the art collection from its historic setting on a 12-acre arboretum planted in the 1880s and moving it to a 4-acre site on one of the City's business boulevards is not only stupid. It also deprives everyone of one of the truly great art experiences forever. Politics and influence met ignorance and greed in this. There has been no transparency, no public debate, and even more misunderstanding about what the Barnes is. It's an unhealthy situation. Friends of the Barnes Foundation are still committed to finding a way to keep The Barnes intact.
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Aug 17, 2010