Monday, September 5, 2011

learning to see: the barnes foundation


Did you get to see it before it shut in June? If not here's your chance... an interactive tour of the old museum. (The Barnes Foundation was established by Albert C Barnes, opened in 1925 and is being moved to a new building.)

I went there a few years ago and loved it. The gallery reminds you of those Old Exhibitions from the 19th century where the paintings covered almost the whole wall--reach up to the ceiling. It's said to be one of the finest collections of 19th and 20th century paintings in the world. And it's all housed in a beautiful building.
What is distinctive about this collection though is that Albert Barnes chose and arranged the paintings in "wall ensembles" in the gallery--arranged intentionally to teach students how to see. 

The works of art come from different time periods, geographic areas and styles and are hung closely together and deliberately positioned in such a way to encourage you to compare and study. And it works. If you stand in front of each wall and wait, things you might have missed emerge, you start noticing what the paintings have in common, visual elements, shapes, colors, etc. 

A really cool way to learn to see.

Kind of like good writing--words put together, positioned in such a way that they open up a window on the world. And help you see. Which is the purpose of art--to make you see.


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