A Museum Changes Homes

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It's your last chance to see the Barnes Foundation's art collection in its original home in Merion, Pa.

When Albert C. Barnes turned his large collection of Impressionist and Postimpressionist art into a foundation in 1922, he had one request: The artworks could never leave his mansion in Merion, Pa. For 80 years, his wish was honored--bringing the Barnes Foundation to the brink of bankruptcy. In 2002, the trustees voted to transfer the collection from its out-of-the-way location to a building on museum row in Philadelphia. It seemed like a great solution--until opponents intervened in court, leaving the Barnes's future like a Monet viewed up close: hazy.

Backed by a recent court order, the trustees are finally moving ahead with the new space. There's a little over a year left to see the 1,879 works--Renoirs, Picassos, Cézannes, Matisses--as Barnes intended. The pharmaceutical magnate, who died in 1951, had strict rules for displaying his art: Every piece in the 23-room building had to hang where he left it. Because he was a stickler for grouping works by visual elements rather than by period, an African mask might hang right next to a Picasso portrait.

"Barnes believed that great artists had similar ideas about art, including how they set things in space," says director Derek Gillman. Curators will rehang the collection following Barnes's master plan, but some pieces can't be moved--such as the Jacques Lipchitz bas-reliefs that peer down from the old building's beaux arts façade. 610/667-0290, barnesfoundation.org, $10.

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