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MeTube: My Narrated Barnes Foundation Walking Tour

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View from my hotel window: Philadelphia Free Library in foreground, In-construction Barnes Foundation (with white rectangular light box atop its roof) directly behind it, Philadelphia Museum of Art at end of the parkway

When I posted on Thursday about the latest court decision reaffirming the permission for the Barnes Foundation’s move to Philadelphia, I didn’t mention that, by sheer coincidence, I was about to head down the New Jersey Turnpike that same morning, intending (among other things) to meander around the Barnes’ construction site in the company of the foundation’s amiable spokesperson, Andrew Stewart. My narrated video, shot after we parted company, is informed by Andrew’s conversation with me about the project.

Before we check on how the place is shaping up for its May 19 opening, here for reference and comparison is a view of the late, lamented Barnes facility in Merion, as conceived by its founder, collector Albert Barnes. (It will still be used for foundation-related purposes.)

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The litigants who were again rebuffed by Judge Stanley Ott in their attempt to stop the move say that they intend to continue pressing their case on appeal. At this late date, however, their chances seem slim to nil.

It’s time for the rest of us to regard the move as a fait accompli and to judge the new Barnes on its own merits (or faults) as a facility for the foundation’s outstanding (if quirky) holdings. One Philadelphia writer told me flatly that he had no intention of ever entering the new building. But those of us who don’t want to deprive ourselves of the chance to revisit its treasures are going to have to try to dismiss our dismay and adjust to reality.

I was not allowed inside, so we’ll only be able to peruse the perimeter. At the end of our tour, we’ll stop to chat with Melvin the Sidewalk Vendor, to get his thumbs-up, man-on-the-street perspective on the new kid on the block. If you want some cheap eats, his hotdogs, at a mere $1.50, are not to be missed!

If you pass by the “Best Deli,” please say hello from CultureGrrl and let Melvin know how to find his 30 seconds of online fame. (I unfortunately forgot to do so.)

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Construction worker visits Melvin’s hotdog stand, across the street from the Barnes

As you listen to my video narration, you’ll hear me express some misgivings about how one aspect of the design by Tod Williams and Billie Tsien (architects of the late, lamented flagship facility of New York’s American Folk Art Museum) may impact the art—particularly works on paper, such as the Cézanne watercolors. I asked to speak with a conservator or curator about this concern. If I learn more, you’ll learn more.

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