Beaten by critics, Barnes still coming

The Barnes Foundation is moving its $6 billion collection to “Philadelphia’s wannabe version of Champs Elysees” whether art and architecture critics like it or not, after the city Art Commission approved final plans yesterday.

The $150 million museum, which is essentially an arts complex that will rival the Philadelphia Art Museum in prominence, now has no more hurdles toward its estimated spring 2012 opening, a museum spokesman said after the commission hearing.

After sustaining numerous bashings in the pages of The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times and TIME magazine since last year, the commission’s unanimous approval of the project must have been a breath of fresh air.

Most critics seemed unable to get past the Barnes’ desertion of its Merion-based home since the 1920s when Albert Barnes, the eccentric pharmaceutical pioneer, began collecting all those 19th century works.

The New York Times, for one, couldn’t look past the eight-mile trek from City Avenue to the Parkway, attacking the foundation for going “after a different kind of audience.”

Talk about high brow. The L.A. Times’ critic dismissed the Parkway location as an attempt at imitating Paris’ famous boulevard.

Museum officials have defended the move by pointing to dwindling revenue at the original site.
And no matter what is written, the move has already begun. Five of the 23 galleries at the Merion location were removed Sunday and placed in storage. The remaining art will all be out by July 2011.

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