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Wednesday, 23 June 2010

Holding Hands?

PMA and Barnes Forge Bond
Rub, left; Gilman, right Photos: Writers Clearinghouse
to Roll Out 'Renoir Country'
By Richard Carreno
Junto Senior Staff Writer Bio

Albert Barnes must be rolling over in his grave. Make that 'roiling.'

In what has been a low-profile reconciliation, the Barnes Foundation and the Philadelphia Museum of Art, once arch enemies, thanks to Dr.Barnes animus against the PMA, have been smoking the peace pipe in recent months. No where has this fraternal inter-institutional cooperation --unthinkable during Barnes' lifetime -- been so evident as during the PMA's current Pierre-Auguste Renoir exhibit, which opened last week.

Both museums have been blowing kisses, what with recently rolled out jointly sponsored tours and lectures. And even Timothy Rub, the museum's director, telling the press, in a pre-show viewing of 'Late Renoir,' how Philadelphia is really 'Renoir country,' due in large part to the Barnes Foundation's unique collection, at 181 works, the largest cache of the French Impressionist anywhere.

Well, why not? Rub and Derek Gilman, the Barnes' director, were both in knickers when the wacky good doctor was fulminating at the PMA and the curatorial elite that mocked his own eclectic curatorial style -- or rather, non-style. Barnes' non-traditional presentation methods are famous or infamous, depending on one's viewpoint.

What isn't in dispute, however, is that Barnes' rage against what he perceived as a fuddy-duddy Philadelphia Establishment was never in the best interests of Philly's arts community and the world-wide constituencies of both museums. Barnes was right about the conservative, uptight Philadelphia Establishment. He was wrong though to hate and to cloister the Barnes Foundation in its Lower Merion compound as if it were a Palm Beach gated-community.

As usual with 'main-stage' shows, the PMA is offering, along with 'Late Renoir,' a series of collateral events, most held at the museum itself.

In what might be a first, however, the Museum is also sponsoring a cooperative venture with the Barnes, including a private, guided tour of the foundation's collection. The tours will be for groups of 15 to 50, on Tuesdays, and will also include a private, guided tour of 'Late Renoir' and lunch at the museum. Total per person cost varies at $140, without museum transport to the Barnes, or $164, with transport.

The Barnes itself is also sponsoring its own Tuesday afternoon tours in 'celebration' of the PMA show. (Did I hear 'celebration'? Take that, Al!) Tours are priced at $75 person, or $65 for a member.

Martha Lucy, an associate curator, will also lecture on Barnes 'obsession' with Renoir at 6:30 pm, Thurday, July 29. The lecture is titled 'A Collector's Obsession: Dr. Barnes and Renoir.' (Lucy has been talkative. Last month, she offered another Renoir and PMA-related lecture, 'Barnes, Late Renoir, and the Modernist Canon.'

How far can this hand-holding go? The PMA is also offering Barnes members $2 off the regular $24 'Late Renoir' fee.

This cooperation is good news. And will probably grow stronger once the Barnes moves to its new home next year on Museum Mile.