By Steve Tawa
PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — In advance of the building dedication ceremony later this week, the Barnes Foundation offered reporters and photographers a sneak peek at the collection in its new Philadelphia home, to get a feel for the experience.
The $150-million facility at 20th Street and the Benjamin Franklin Parkway was conceived as a “gallery within a garden and a garden within a gallery,” and it’s now in full bloom, inside and out.
Husband-and-wife architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien say they were able to preserve the intent of Dr. Albert Barnes by replicating the dimensions and shapes of the original spaces in Merion.
The 12,000-square-foot galleries mimic the configuration of the original Merion campus, with the ensembles — the $25-billion groupings of Impressionist, post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, wall hangings, sculpture and other objects — placed just so in each of the 24 rooms.
“It’s been a journey in which we’ve been able to be particular in every single way,” said Williams today.
The Philadelphia site has visitor amenities beyond the galleries. The 93,000-square-foot building includes a 7,800-square-foot “light court” under a glass canopy, a 4,300-square-foot gallery for special exhibitions, a 150-seat auditorium, a gift shop, and a café.
Barnes trustee Joseph Neubauer believes art lovers have embraced the controversial move from Merion to Museum Row.
“We started out three years ago with 400 members of Friends of the Barnes,” he notes. “Now we’re over 20,000 members strong.”
The new facility will open to the public on Friday. The Barnes figures it will draw 250,000 visitors through the end of the year.