Lance Esplund is a remarkably astute critic but it is hard to take the continuing wailing about the Barnes Foundation’s move seriously when his complaints are that the lighting in the new facility is too even and the museum meets the building code:
I visited the new Barnes on a cloudy morning and found the lighting distracting, overbearing and uniform. Rather than allowing colors to breathe, at times it completely washed out the paintings. […] Still protesting outside the day I visited were members of the Friends of the Barnes Foundation, a group that fought to keep the collection in Merion. One held up a sign: “R.I.P. Donor Intent.”
It’s true. Nothing legitimizes this assault on a benefactor’s wishes and the unforgivable breach of historic preservation: Embedded now in at least one wall in every gallery — intermingling with the Cezannes, Matisses and Renoirs — is a large, glowing red “Exit” sign, the new Barnes’s most consistent and prominent feature.
Matisse remarked that the old Barnes was “the only sane” place to view art in America. For Barnes, the Matisse mural, like a “rose window,” transformed his Foundation into a cathedral.
Esplund complains that the new building contains a large open space that only seems to fulfill the function of providing an area for entertaining the wealthy while elegizing an exceedingly wealthy man’s determination to control his possessions in perpetuity. Go figure.