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My Neighborhood Is Best: The Barnes Foundation

August 29, 2013
  1. I’m happy my friends keep stepping up.
  2. I’m grateful I’ll have a chance to rest this weekend to recover from my cold.
  3. I’m happy I finally got to visit the Barnes Foundation.

Meg and I took a cultural vacation day today to visit the priceless works of art found at the Barnes Foundation. I’ll have to really start this with a confession: I lived in Wynnewood for three years, within a mile of the old location of the Barnes. I’ve also lived within a mile of the current location of the museum since it opened in the neighborhood last year.

This was my first time ever visiting the museum. Ever.


The move to the Benjamin Franklin Parkway is really, really controversial. Incredibly so. If you want to learn more about it, I can’t really do the controversy (and numerous lawsuits) justice, so read this. Or this. Or this. Or watch this movie that documented the move.

Anyway, I’d never been to either location. Until today. There’s no excuse for it, other than the fact that I don’t really have an incredibly educated eye with regard to artwork. The museum has 23 rooms, most of which are jam-packed with works by Matisse, Picasso, Cezanne, Renoir (lots and lots of Renoir), and Seurat.

In fact, after viewing one of Seurat’s paintings on the first floor, I turned to Meg and said, “This looks like that painting from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off.” (It was, and, for the record, “that painting from Ferris Bueller’s Day Off was “A Sunday Afternoon on the Island of La Grande Jatte.”

Other than the fact that I felt like the beautiful paintings and furniture were kind of lost on me, I really enjoyed it. Two of my highlights:

In one of the rooms upstairs, Meg and I were alone with another couple. (Background: The rooms have the art arranged in a very specific way that was dictated by Dr. Albert C. Barnes. It’s part of the foundation’s trust that the artwork has to be displayed in these very specific ways, with very specific groupings.)

As Meg and I worked around the room, we could hear a discussion taking place between the couple. He wondered aloud about the placement of two paintings that didn’t fit with the rest of the theme of the room. She said “There’s no way he thought about what belonged with everything else. Look at all this stuff. He had too much damn art. He was just hoarding it. He just put it where he had the damn space.”

Meg and I laughed.

Also, in one of the final rooms we saw, another couple were present (a man and a woman). The woman, I noticed, was speaking very passionately about, I thought, the artwork. I edged closer, thinking I could glean some useful information. As I approached, she was getting more and more vehement in the way she made her points. I was just a few feet away. I strained a little more to hear.

Then I was close enough. “Then you just put the whole package of bacon in, and it cooks really nicely.” (She had been talking about cooking bacon in her microwave oven the whole time. I immediately felt better about my appreciation of art, although, sometimes, I think it amounts to this:

After we finished seeing all the rooms, Meg and I walked a couple blocks to grab some lunch. We walked to Doma, a sushi joint that was nearby. As we were walking, we passed the eagerly anticipated Marc Vetri pizza restaurant, Pizzeria Vetri. (Background: Vetri is the best chef in Philly. Seriously. Every restaurant is awesome. I kid you not. He is the best, and he’s going to have a pizza place within a mile of our house.)

Callow Hill Street is pretty busy where Pizzeria Vetri is located, and we were on the other side of the street. It looked like there was some activity in the restaurant, which is due to open Sept. 6, so I asked, “Do you want to walk across to see what’s going on?”

“No, let’s just get some sushi,” Meg replied, and I was all in. We went and, it was OK. Just OK. There was one thing we got that was awesome, and the pork bun appetizers were really nice, but the spicy tuna roll wasn’t spicy, and everything was just OK.

We started walking home, still on the opposite side of the street from Pizzeria Vetri when we saw … people eating! Meg and I stood there and stared. “The did a f*&king soft opening!” “Oh my God,” Meg said. “They did a f&$king soft opening,” I repeated. I could see one of the pizzeria’s employees looking out the window at us and realized I was throwing my arms up and down like a 2-year-old having a temper tantrum. I immediately calmed down.

Meg read later the manufacturer of the pizza oven had, actually, come to town to make sure it was operating correctly, and that it wasn’t in fact, a soft f&$king opening. Needless to say, I can’t wait for Pizzeria Vetri to open.

 

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