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LETTERS

Barnes Collection

October 19, 2003

I was glad to see Christopher Knight add his voice to others from coast to coast in trying to save the Barnes Collection from its "saviors" -- otherwise known as the Annenbergs, etc. These extraordinary paintings were brought together by a man who had a certain -- some would say unusual -- way of doing things, and the way his collection is displayed pays tribute to him. It should always be able to be viewed in that way.

The impact of entering the main salon and seeing Matisse's "Seated Riffian" and Picasso's "The Peasants" hanging between the French doors and Matisse's mural "The Dance," painted especially for the space, above them is awesome. Then to turn to see the Cezannes, Renoirs, Van Goghs -- talk about wonderful overkill -- it is an unforgettable experience.

While it is true that because of the location -- and the bad blood that has built over the years between the residents and the school that Dr. Barnes left in charge -- the number of people who can view the art will always be limited. So be it. This was this man's legacy and it should be viewed through his eyes, and this can only be done in this place.

Jerry Rutledge

West Hollywood

*

The Barnes is situated in a hard-to-access suburb of Philadelphia, in a building with no architectural or interpretive merit -- save that it was built by its founder. Though Barnes built a great collection, no one from the art world or general public has praised him for his genius of art interpretation.

Hanging Renoir paintings three high, interspersed with 16th century-18th century iron hardware will help no one interpret Renoir, only to understand the general opinion that Barnes was highly eccentric.

If you want to visit a museum in America where its owner had a flair for appropriate interpretation for her varied world-class collection of masterpieces and ephemera, may I invite you to Boston's Isabella Gardner Museum of Art. Mr. Knight will then have a rational basis for his assertion of keeping a collection in its original container -- a joyous, welcoming one at that.

Jon Andersen

Boston

*

Christopher Knight's suggestion that the Getty Trust save the Barnes and preserve it as is would do a terrible disservice to the world of art appreciation and to the millions of art lovers who would never get to see those fabulous paintings, drawings, sculptures and other items.

I have been through the Barnes Museum several times, the first during 1967 when it was closed to all but art students and scholars. My wife was an art student, and she wrote a letter that won her permission to visit. We were overwhelmed by the massive accumulation of Impressionists and others.

Unlike other museums, which parcel out their paintings a few at a time, Dr. Barnes arranged his rooms to greet you with avalanche after avalanche of masterpieces, stacked two, three, even four high on the walls. "You like the Impressionists, do you?" he seemed to be saying to us, "Well, here's another dozen Cezannes for you. Here's another score of Matisses." The impact was breathtaking.

But these paintings are housed in a building so cramped and a neighborhood so unwilling to be invaded by tourists that they are perpetually off-limits to millions of people.

Yes, moving the paintings to a more accessible venue would remove the present character of the Barnes experience. But that's a small price to pay in exchange for allowing so many more people to benefit from them.

Robert Moskowitz

Woodland Hills

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