New York Magazine's Justin Davidson has a lot to say about the new Barnes Museum, much of it in his exquisite, almost tactile prose that makes it easy to see a building even when you're not in it. While he appreciates the work that architects Tod William and Billie Tsien have done, he's decidedly less sympathetic to Albert Barnes who he introduces as an "odd pharmaceutical tycoon" with "inextinguishable weirdness." The rest of what he says about the battle partly portrayed in the film The Art of the Steal is certainly not going to please any of the folks who wanted the collection to stay in Merion.
The story of this place is tormented and baroque. Barnes assembled a large and uneven treasure-house of paintings, metalwork, furniture, and plants, and then spent a lifetime (until his death in 1951) trying to perpetuate his control. He dictated who could see his collection and when, and how it was housed, hung, and reproduced. He’s still at it. ... the foundation is obliged to retain Barnes’s dense and obsessively symmetrical arrangement. Honoring his eccentricities made sense in his dark and creepy house; here, they have become irksome. Davidson's colleague Jerry Saltz, who also contributes a review, is kinder to Barnes. Yes, he writes, his ideas were "flaky," but they were also "revolutionary." He praises Barnes' visual style, but then calls him a "madman."
· The Philadelphia Story [New York Magazine]