I promise you I will not continually post 3 times a week. I just need to get caught up. Philly was AGES ago!!
“I just got some serious scoop from the hairdresser I saw,” I said to Michael as I came back into the hotel room.
“Well, I just mentioned to him, I wanted to visit a few museums while we were here in Philly and he raised one eyebrow at me…and then sort of asked me out of the side of his mouth (I tried to recreate the effect as I explained)…if I planned to go to the Barnes Museum. He made me so nervous I just said no.”
“Why? Isn’t that the one Dr. Messite told us we had to visit?”
Dr. Messite is our hilarious and elegantly old school dentist. We love him so much, he attended our wedding. He also has a voice similar to Snagglepuss from the old Hanna-Barbera cartoons, but don’t tell him I said so.
Elizabeth you must go to the Barnes Museum when you’re in Philadelphia. Marilyn and I drove down for the opening and it’s just magnificent, splendiferous even.
“So what’s the story?” Michael asked, bringing me back into the room.
“Well, bear in mind I have obviously not fact checked or google searched any of this, plus I don’t think I can recall all of it accurately so, this is strictly salon gossip,” I paused, “you know I just heard your eyes roll even though I didn’t see them.”
“What’s the story?”
“Ok, this is pretty much what the hair dresser told me…
This man named Barnes had a tough life, grew up on the wrong side of the tracks, etcetera. He made his fortune by inventing acetaminophen? Maybe? Something like that. In the era of Gertrude Stein, at the height of French Impressionism he had a lot of money and decided to collect art…a lot of art…30 billion dollars worth of art…maybe less. I can’t remember. He sequestered it away in a museum he built specifically around the collection, just outside of Philadelphia. In fact, the building was SO specific it was actually built around a painting, I believe by Manet. However, Barnes decided he would only make this collection accessible to children who attended a specific school, it was not to be viewed by the public. And MOST importantly he did not want the art to fall into the hands of the Philadelphia art world…
“Why?” Michael interrupted.
I guess he thought they were all a lot of uppity so and so’s. Oh…and there was also something about Annenberg. They got into an argument one night. I think Barnes told Annenberg he shouldn’t be so snooty because everyone knew his grandfather made all of his money in the mafia. Apparently this was common knowledge, but Annenberg, I guess, had the same sense of humor as maybe someone like…Tom Cruise. Right? You know what I mean, right? No sense of humor…especially about anything related to his own shortcomings. So Annenberg & Barnes never spoke again.
Oo Oo Oo! Wait! So when Barnes died…he had no heirs and a will that stated 2 things:
The first was that this art is for this nice school. But of course, over time, the school couldn’t afford to take care of the art, so the state of Pennsylvania said, ‘Hey! We’ll give you the money if you give us the art.’ Uh-huh. This is how the will was broken so the public was able to view the art.
The second stipulation of the will was that the art must NEVER, EVER, EVER be moved into the city of Philadelphia.
“But wait, I thought the Barnes Museum was in Philladelphia?”
It is! Dr. Messite attended the opening of the new space in Philly just last year. And guess who’s primarily responsible for breaking the will and funding the move? The Annenberg Foundation, even! So, my hairdresser is boycotting the museum.
No WAY! I booked tickets on my walk back to the hotel.
For more in-depth (correct) information on the Barnes click here.
While I’m very sorry Mr. Barnes’ final wishes were not honored, I am very glad I was able to view so many fabulous paintings displayed so meaningfully. It was an unforgettable experience however it came to be.
Photographs were strictly prohibited inside the museum. For a lovely slide show from the NYTimes click here.
Our next stop was Pittsburgh.