Alexandra Lange | Essays

Should We Boycott the New Barnes?

Barnes Foundation identity (via Pentagram)

Last week, Tyler Green of Modern Art Notes linked to a new entry on Pentagram's blog about partner Abbott Miller's identity and website for the Barnes Foundation, in advance of the storied collection's planned re-opening in Philadelphia in May 2012 in a Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects-designed building. Green picked out and picked on a quote from Miller, who said the new identity, with its irregular line of framed letters, recalls "the DNA of Dr. Barnes's vision." "They killed the Barnes, saved the DNA?" he tweeted.

I tweeted back: "I feel uncomfortable abt designers and architects I admire working on the new Barnes. What are the ethics?" I'm still wrestling with this question, since I admire the work of Abbott Miller and Tod Williams Billie Tsien. I believe them all to be thoughtful people, so I supsect they have wondered this too. Is it better to work to make a flawed project better, or to walk away?

The contentious history of the Barnes Foundation and this move from its existing location in Lower Merion, PA is well-covered in the documentary "The Art of the Steal" and is far too complex for me to summarize. (Lance Esplund did it here.) Suffice it to say, that after watching the documentary, I questioned whether I should ever go to the new Barnes. Now I am questioning what the right thing is for an architect or designer to do. Would refusing the commission (or more likely, refusing to compete) be just an empty gesture? Is it more important that designers who are indeed respectful of the Barnes DNA facilitate the move? Even if I never go (another empty protest?), isn't it better that the new Barnes be good? Dr. Barnes is rolling in his grave anyway.

Barnes Foundation entrance (via TWBTA)
This spring, Michael Murphy started a discussion about ethics for architects with the news that Zaha Hadid had laid off 90 employess when a project in Tripoli was put on hold by "unforseen events in North Africa." He asked, "Why dictator states are the ones sponsoring so many of these projects?
Is the demand for architectural service so limited that we follow the money no matter whom it comes from? What role do architects have in changing this quid pro quo? In laying off a quarter of her staff after losing the Libyan project, Hadid seems to be saying, “Not much.” As an image-maker, she is also signaling, “Who cares?” ... If architects must rely on dictators and free interns to stay afloat, they are practicing a failed business model.
It is easy, particularly in hindsight, to say the ethical architect would not have accepted a commission from Qaddafi. But the Barnes situation puts the ethics of design closer to home, and in less stark terms than a dictatorship. But in both cases design makes a bad situation look better. The same could be said of new looks for the same old fast food. I was surprised by the blithe, whatever-it-takes tone of the recent New York Times Magazine article on DJ Stout's (also of Pentagram) rebranding of Popeyes.

Popeyes bags featuring jazz musicians (via Pentagram)
Writer David Segal posed the question "Can good design rescue fast food?" but by "rescue" he only meant increasing market share, not encouraging healthier choices, portion control or any of the other ways design might helpfully intervene in our eating habits. That the tone and topic of his piece fit uneasily under the Times's crusading Michael Pollan-Mark Bittman rhetoric was completely unaddressed. And no one in the article raised an eyebrow about making the food look more "intelligent" by adopting the Whole Foods demographic's "uncluttered surfaces, strong colors and bold lettering" without also changing its content.
The company has said the changes were made to emphasize the brand’s Louisiana heritage and to appeal to younger diners, but the makeover also had the effect of making the food somehow seem more healthful. Was that a goal? “Yes,” says DJ Stout, who oversaw the rebranding for the design firm Pentagram. “At the beginning of any redesign, you have lots of conversations with the owners, and a big part of the packaging assignment was to make the food look healthier.”
Pentagram has performed this trick for more than a few chains, including Ruby Tuesday, Chicken Now and Bobby’s Burger Palace. In each case, the design consultancy favored uncluttered surfaces, strong colors and bold lettering. The results leave diners with the sense that there’s something intelligent about the packaging, and by extension, the restaurant and its food.

Do we hold the designer at all responsible for this bait-and-switch? If obseity is as great a problem in the United States, and particularly in the South, as the rest of the Times says it is, we shouldn't just consider this work clever. It's potentially lethal. When I asked this spring "What Should Food Look Like?" I was thinking about design working in the opposite direction, giving healthy food the appeal of junk, but of course the urbane labeling I described could go the other way. (Also left out of the Times article: the coded class message of "intelligent" and "younger diners.")

I'm still making up my mind about all of this, which makes me uncomfortable in a different way. But I would be interested to hear from practicing designers (particularly the ones mentioned here) about the ethics of practice, where good work comes from, and whether to accept such a commission even seems like a valid question.

Posted in: Architecture, Arts + Culture, Business

Comments [33]

These are great questions. I would add: what are the ethics of the green-washing of environmentally destructive corporations of which William McDonough's enabling work for Walmart serves as a prime example? Or, for that matter, annointing BMW with the urban legitimacy of a pop-up?
Mr. Downer

I've been grappling with my position on the new Barnes, too. It's an interesting comparison that you've drawn between the Barnes issue, and whether it's similar to packaging design's potential complicity with the obesity issue.

But on the latter, there's an opportunity for Design to make something better; the opportunity for design to impact portion sizes; heighten awareness of nutritional value, etc.

I'm sure the new Barnes will be a beautiful museum: I'm a fan of both Pentagram's and TWBTA's work. I pass no judgement on them for acting on the opportunity to create a new museum experience. Since it *is* moving, it should be a destination worth visiting. But, my issue is with the decision to relocate the Barnes in the first place. The current Barnes experience isn't unhealthy, as is fast food, and it was Dr. Barnes' explicit wish for the collection to remain in Lower Merion.

"Dr. Barnes is rolling in his grave anyway." It's why I decided that my visit to the Lower Merion location will be my only trip to the Barnes, and why I won't support the new location.
Tracy Kroop

Asking the question "Is it better to work to make a flawed project better, or to walk away?" presupposes that the move of the Barnes is universally viewed as harmful or wrongheaded. Not so.

While "The Art of the Steal" makes a persuasive case, it's not the only case to be made. Mark Lamster raises some interesting questions here:


Michael Bierut

I am not sure what the problem here is. Are you upset that someone designed a building and an identity for a museum that was moved to a bigger audience legally or not? Or that a designer spruced up a look for a fast food firm and you think the food should be healthier? The stories behind these issues are subjective at best.

I understand ethics and moral positions and I understand positioning brands for the consumer and the public too. You don't have to go to the new Barnes Museum if you don't want and no one is forcing you to eat Popeye's Chicken. You understand fast food so please don't hold the designer responsible for obesity issues in America. Every time Coca Cola has a new bottle look and feel we praise the designers with awards. Don't tell me that colas are good for you.

In this day and age I know that design, whether architecture, graphics, products, etc., can help to make the world a better place. So can a lot of other things, like banks and unions and world leaders, etc. but I'm not seeing much positive progress by any of them to my liking. So I have to digest it all and take the good with the bad or what I like or don't like. Again, subjectivity. I don't much care for the new Barnes identity or the new Popeye's one either.

I am not sure there is a clear answer to your question but I'd go to the new Barnes if I was in that area and oops, I did have some Popeye's Chicken this past summer at a party.

There are bigger issues at hand.
Chuck Miller

By the way, good article.
Chuck Miller

I am not sure that those involved with the move think it is all that of a bad thing... Just look at the surge in membership. Regardless of how you think about it, designers, employees, consultants, etc... they all have to eat.

My guess is that many of the people who work for Quaddafi or work for the fast food industry don't feel that they are doing anything immoral or working for immoral organizations. They are likely thinking of opportunity or money or maybe they are not thinking... the fact is that they are doing what they are doing.

I have no feeling about the people who are choosing to make money or find opportunity from the move. For me that is their choice and they have to live with what ever they feel about the whole thing.

I will not be going to the new Barnes. For me it is not the Barnes. It is something else and should have been called something else... like Aramark or Lenfest or Pew or Annenburg museum. The things that made it the Barnes are gone. The education and the installation are gone. All that you will see at the new facility are the paintings, sculpture, etc... in a place of entertainment. Like going to a new stadium. I loved the phillies at the vet and I love them at their new ball park.

Well if I want to be entertained by those objects... maybe I'll go, but it will not be the Barnes. The Barnes is gone... Dead... and someday will be ground out by history.

So my feeling is that those who want to be entertained by "art" the move will be wonderful and will make them feel great inside. For those who have felt or experienced the education or have studied the installation it will be like listening to an elementary school band play beethoven.

For those who think that money doesnt run everything... they will get to bend over and feel the cold hands of who really runs this town.

"So can a lot of other things, like banks and unions and world leaders, etc. "

Help me with this logic? Does this mean because other entities are not being ethically responsible that makes it ok or more digestible for designers not to be?

I don't think this question of ethics is of much worth given the coordinates of the discussion. For me the politics is always much more interesting: what kind of life does your designing make possible and impossible. If you know how you want to live then the political question becomes one of knowing who do I support and who do I undermine. In this sense I think there is very little hope for architecture and branding to provide any kind of 'ethical' outcome because they more often than not the assistants to a destructive way of life.

There are currently people occupying Wall Street who are working very hard to both built and assert a new way of living. While the odds are stacked against them I do hope that they succeed, and I hope that they do so without the help of architects and branding designers.
Matthew Kiem

Alexandra Lange asks "What are the ethics?" of working on the Barnes Foundation as they make their move to the Parkway. If I disagreed with the premise of the move I wouldn't have pursued the project, but I fully support it and am honored to work with the staff of the Barnes and the architects. Alexandra implies an ethical struggle on the part of those involved about undertaking a "flawed project." Actually its a fascinating project precisely because of its complexity. To render what designers do as making a "bad situation look better" presents a surprisingly basic perspective. For the last three years I have been involved with the Barnes in the design of a new graphic identity, architectural signage, a new website, interpretive materials within the galleries, and books. Throughout this process the unique conditions of the Barnes has been at the forefront of our efforts, and those of everyone with whom we have collaborated.
Abbott Miller

My reference to "So can a lot of other things, like banks and unions and world leaders, etc. " simply meant that I don't feel that all the social responsibility needs to put on the shoulders of designers. We make choices as to what our work projects are and at times social responsibility isn't necessarily the driving force for us.

It means everyone has a choice and acts accordingly. I commend Abbott for explaining his position and it makes me want to look into the project even more. Maybe he'll take an interview with me sometime as my head's buzzing with a number of questions for him.

I have a friend who runs a Popeye's and he states that he's basically making a living and there are good times and bad times for his business. Pretty much, he's making a living and doesn't judge others whether they be competitors or those who come to his restaurant. He understands the nutrition levels of his products but hasn't force fed anyone either.

just like going to the Barnes, we have a choice.
Chuck Miller

Whether you agree with the Foundation’s move or not, Dr. Barnes’ main priority was for the general public to experience his art. Walk around Philadelphia and ask locals who don’t have a car if they have ever been to Merion. Most will tell you no. While the Art of the Steal makes a (very biased) case for elitist greed profiting from the move, relocating the Foundation to center city keeps the collection intact and provides access for the demographic that Barnes most wanted to reach. If the main goal in all of this is to honor Dr. Barnes, and I think it is, then moving the collection achieves that. It’s not a perfect solution, but I disagree with the assertion that it is unethical.
Jenny Kutnow

I believe that you are missing the point. The purpose of a visit to the Barnes Foundation is to see the paintings by Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, Prendergast and many other great artists. In its new location — in the center of a major city — millions more visitors will be able to see and be inspired by these magnificent works of art. The Foundation wisely decided to move from a place where few could visit to a place where people from all over the world can easily come. Sadly, you will not be among them because of your position, which I find profoundly mistaken.

It is a shame that other considerations take precedence over what is the main purpose of the Barnes Collection: the paintings. They are the reason you need to go there: not because of the graphics, or the architecture, or the character of the founder, or anything else.
William H. Helfand

The shift from Barnes to Popeye's was a bit abrupt, and while the overall question of design ethics is an important one, the evaluation here is arbitrary, and lacks important perspective.

Let's start with the Barnes collection. Years ago, I had the opportunity to view a rare touring exhibition of the collection. It was filled with important works by artists that would be the envy of any Museum collection you'd care to name. So here's the ethical question: What obligation does the foundation have to provide broad access to the collection to the general public? If support of the arts, and education of the public about the value of both the fine arts in general and foundations that provide not only for their preservation, but their exhibition are worthy goals, then by those standards, the foundation has acted in an extremely responsible and egalitarian way. Discounting these outcomes by arguing for the permanent lockdown of the collection in a stuffy and inaccessible (or at least less accessible one) shows a lack of critical thinking.

The issues concerning Popeye's are far different. The rebrand reflects the company heritage, and embraces the New Orleans ethic "always for pleasure." While making the food and store look "healthier" may be open to ethical questions, I make a distinction between healthier and healthy, which is not the case here. McDonalds' claim that their menu boasts "healthy options" is far more questionable, both nutritionally and ethically.

It is a dangerous path to begin some sort of blacklist or ethical ranking system for design projects. Who makes these decisions? What are their criteria? While Whole Foods seems to have been used as an example of a good actor, their CEO famously attacked the Affordable Care Act in a Wall Street Journal editorial, even though the position contradicted his own company's so-called ethics governing employee treatment. What are the ethical implications of those actions, and what obligations do designers have to accept or decline work based on them?


The move of the collection destroys an important chapter in art history - the Matisse Dance II mural. This is the only location in the United States that Matisse created a large work for and it represents a turning point in his career. He went to Merion to see the space, and see it installed. (For background, see: http://blogs.princeton.edu/wri152-3/jholt/archives/001911.html and read the Spurling biography).

The design choice to assign the "the DNA of Dr. Barnes’ vision" to the symmetrical row of paintings rather than the arches where the Matisse was installed is telling. Not that it's wrong, but a straight row of paintings can be moved anywhere.

Of course the paintings are magnificent, put them in a busy Apple store and they will still be incredible. Along with other valuable cultural and historical context stripped away, new visitors will never have the experience of seeing the Matisse mural in its original, intended location.

I hope that the New Barnes makes an attempt at displaying the paintings in the same manner as Dr. Barnes did in Marion. There was a vibrancy with the juxtaposition of images that is not often seen in museums. Dr. Barnes was a self taught curator who bought these now priceless works before the art establishment thought they were worthy of being in a museum. His “eye” was very advanced and so were his ideas about exhibiting art as a teaching tool.

I'm not a designer, but would like to weigh in as someone familiar with the case. Mr. Miller's thoughtful response shows that he worked on the project believing that there are no ethical conflicts because a) the move got court approval and b) the goal of more people seeing the art collection is worthy of support. These are reasonable conclusions for most people who rely on newspapers for their information, but you seem to be asking whether designers are obliged to look further.

Likewise the architects seem to have accepted their client's version of the controversy -- and more. Mr. Williams spoke with writer Julia Klein for the Wall St. Journal about incorporating a "cheesesteak" element into the design to symbolize what he imagined as a shift from the "elitist" Merion Barnes to the progressive, accessible version on the Parkway (a bizarre and, well, ignorant interpretation of the work of super-Progressives Albert Barnes and John Dewey -- and insulting to the people of Philadelphia).

Those conclusions are flawed, but there is a lot of information available that supports them. Then again there is also a lot of information that refutes them, but you have to look a bit harder for it. Does the designer or architect have an obligation to seek out as much information as possible since their names and reputations will henceforth be attached to the project? That's a tough professional decision, with which Mr. Miller and TWBTA have undoubtedly grappled long ago.

As an advocate for preservation, I ask why should they be held to a higher standard than the leaders in the community itself, the vast majority of whom have stood by in deafening silence?

That said, the Barnes case presents us with a unique puzzle of distinguishing legal vs. ethical. The legal picture is a very lopsided one strongly favoring The Movers of the Barnes (the Barnes Board, Pew, Annenberg, Lenfest, Attorney General, Governor). The students who were allowed into the proceedings as "friends of the court" were denied full legal standing to intervene, were limited to raising questions that bore on the educational program of the Barnes Foundation, and had no right to discovery. The result was a court procedure that was not an illuminating adversarial process in which the parties had to show specific evidence in Court to PROVE their assertions. They only stated -- over and over again -- what their positions were: the Barnes is insolvent and there are no good alternatives to The Move; the Merion environment is inhospitable; the Merion facility is not able to secure philanthropic support or increase the numbers of casual visitors to a point where it would be financially sustainable; it is the public interest, therefore, to move the collection to the Parkway (Attorney General's position). The process ended with the Barnes Board getting approval for the expansion of its Board (eliminating Lincoln University's dominance in favor of Pew-approved members) and moving the collection. In the early 1980s an important player in Philadelphia society described the plans for the Barnes this way:"We're going to steal it 'fair and square'."

There is evidence to prove that all of the statements about the Barnes financial status and access were false, but efforts to bring that evidence before the Judge have so far been unsuccessful. The Petition filed earlier this year by the Friends of the Barnes Foundation seeking to re-open hearings has been dismissed for lack of legal standing, with no examination of the merits. The basis of the Friends' petition was that the threatening statements to the Lincoln Board made by then-Attorney General Mike Fisher in "The Art of the Steal" was new evidence, unknown to the Court in 2004. Those threats invalidated the Attorney General's role and would allow Judge Ott to use the Private Attorney General Theory to give standing to the Friends. But Judge Ott is keeping on lid on it and also trying to shut down the Friends with sanctions. Some people will conclude that this outcome makes The Move "legal" and therefore "ethical".

What about the case for more people being able to see the art collection? The Barnes Foundation has long protested that Township regulations made it impossible to increase the numbers of visitors that would make the site financially sustainable. But the Barnes Foundation never filed the application with the Township to change the Ordinance. A citizens group filed the application and won approval for a huge increase in visitors in 2007, although the Barnes Board never instituted policies that would take advantage of the expansion in visitorship.

Then there is the question of access in terms of admission price. When the Barnes was in Court, they claimed that they couldn't raise the price from $5 because "no one would come". After they got permission for the move, the price went up several times, reaching $17 plus a doubling of the price of parking. The Parkway is reportedly going to have a $20 or $25 admission ticket and parking at $8 an hour. That is not accessible.

There is a well-documented position about the Barnes in Merion as "grand work", of which the art collection is one part. This is a view that values the Merion site as a unique and valuable cultural entity of art, architecture, horticulture, and history. It is hard to imagine that Messrs Miller and Williams and Ms. Tsien read the Assessment of the Barnes as a National Historic Landmark, available since June of 2007, and concluded that there is no ethical dilemma. Among other things, it describes the Merion complex as the embodiment of Albert Barnes' and John Dewey's ideas and democratic ideals. The use of the collection as a commodity for generating profits, prestige, power, and tax revenue obviously violates that.

The question remains, do designers and architects have to get into all that? Normally, it would be good for everybody if they did. But in this case, when the silence from the arts community, from the philanthropic community, from the historic preservation community has been something close to SILENCE, it seems a very unfair burden to put on the the design professionals and the architects.

Ironically and perhaps inadvertently, their designs reflect some elemental truths. The new logo reminds us of the fracturing of the brilliant, unified whole in Merion.

The building's got a message, too. The stone box on the Parkway inspired CulturGrrl Lee Rosenbaum to recently note the building's mausoleum-like qualities. Perfect.

E. Yaari

The architectural integration of the Matisse mural, the proportion of the galleries, and the spatial relationships of the "ensembles" are preserved in the Parkway building, as required under the terms of the judge's ruling.
Abbott Miller

By "preserved" you mean simulated, in the same way Paris Las Vegas "preserves" elements of the Eiffel tower design.

As Mr. Helfand points out above, there's nothing simulated about the paintings.

Lange's piece blithely assumes that every properly progressive reader will agree with her that moving the Barnes collection from the suburbs to center city is unethical. Rather than trouble us with questions about this "complex" issue, she simply refers us to a bombastic, one-sided documentary film. From Lange's swift initial judgment of the overall project, it's an easy leap to brand the designers and architects involved as violating their own ethics. Such writing is sloppy and hurtful.
Ellen Lupton

I wish you had just stuck to one question and topic: The Barnes Foundation's move. Why muddy the waters by conflating that with the question of the ethics of doing design for fast food restaurants? Yes, I get that Pentagram was involved in both. And yes, both might illustrate ethic questions designers face. But is Pentagram the only example you could find, or is this really a critique of Pentagram's ethics?
Rob Henning

I don't think attendance numbers are an indicator of the quality of a museum's experience. MOMA attracts hoards of visitors but it feels like a department store. It is hard to fight the feeling that has been reduced to simply a destination to check off a tourist itinerary. Sometimes the work required to seek out and find a place means that only people willing to make it a priority end up experiencing it. I think that this is more important than pseudo-populism.
Roger Broome

I remember the late architect Der Scutt, pulling me aside after a meeting in the late 80's, and telling me, sotto voce, that "Architects are whores". Things never change.

Reading the tone of many of the comments, there is a notable pattern of outrage about the nature of Alexandra Lange's inquiry. Even though she makes it quite clear that she is undecided about the questions raised by the museum and fast food branding, some commentators seem to be very threatened that she is asking questions and pointing out the inherent contradictions that these projects contain. These responses are ample evidence of the difficulty we have confronting moral and ethical dilemmas. Whistling Dixie won't make them go away.
Roger Broome

Ms. Lange is pretty clear about her uncertainty on the issue, so it is surprising that Ellen Lupton would make the assumption that Lange is expecting other readers to side with her, when a side has not been chosen. It's a pretty complex issue, and as a Philadelphian, it's one that has been the focus of many debates and conversations over the years. But it's clear in this thread that it is one that is being taken very personally, too.

For me, the original post and its subsequent discussion has helped clarify things in my own mind. The work being done for the Barnes is not unethical. I'm just frustrated that a man's explicit wish to keep a collection in its intended environment was cast aside. Dr. Barnes not only curated the works for them to be displayed near each other, but also to interact with the home and the natural surroundings--these cannot be recreated.

It is true, as Mr. Helfand states, that millions of (additional) visitors will have access to the works of Matisse, Picasso, Renoir, and Prendergast. Personally, I would have preferred to see the New Barnes become an *extension* of the original collection, not a replacement. FWIW, I have no car, but made the 'trek' to Lower Merion (an easy walk to the museum from the train station). Then again, I have also visited the Brandywine River Museum, where the works of 3 generations of Wyeths can be visited at a location near where the Wyeths call(ed) home. The location argument--for me--is a weak one.

Tracy Kroop

"Pentagram has performed this trick for more than a few chains.... In each case, the design consultancy favored uncluttered surfaces, strong colors and bold lettering. The results leave diners with the sense that there’s something intelligent about the packaging, and by extension, the restaurant and its food."

There's nothing inherently "intelligent" about a design, other than a well-reasoned case for its placement, color, format, etc... In this case, you're referring to a (somewhat dated) trend in graphics that's been picked up en masse and used for countless products from barbecue sauce to paper towels. Attractive packaging imposes absolutely no special status on the product within. Give people some credit- I'd argue that those of us who buy items for their looks know exactly what we're doing.

While I'm glad Abbott Miller posted, I think if you do a story like this you're obligated to contact the designers for a response...what are the ethics, indeed.
Bob Aufuldish

I was sincere when I wrote the headline of this post in the form of a question. I am genuinely ambivalent, though I do find the arguments against moving the Barnes troubling. I'm always hesitant to respond to my own post, since I've had my say, but I feel I need to answer several comments about my method.

I see that it would have been fairer to link to a range of opinions on the Barnes's history and legal battle, and (if I had remembered it), to Mark Lamster's review of the film. I also failed to include in my list of questions a version of Abbott Miller's response: what if there isn't a problem? I did assume some familiarity with the case, and prior knowledge of these "winning" positions.

I could have left Pentagram and graphic design out of this post entirely, mentioning only TWBTA and, for example, the role of today's SOM in remaking the landmarked interior of vintage SOM's Manufacturers Hanover Trust building. Current discussions about preservation have a lot of resonance here, not just because the Barnes building is itself important but because they raise similar questions about access, defining the greater public good, property rights and original intentions.

LA Times architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne was more decisively critical of the architects who responded to the Barnes RFP in 2007: lat.ms/fmCnhd

I did mention graphic design, and included the Popeyes project, because I was trying to show the range of scales and fields in which such questions occur. These questions are not just for architects, but for the consumers of the culture or the food.

And finally, in response to Bob Aufuldish, I thought about contacting the designers I mentioned in this piece, particularly as I know Abbott Miller personally. But when I review a book or an exhibition, a building or a design, or even another critic, I consider the work and then write about it. I don't call the designer or the curator or the author. I decided my critical ethics told me I should write about my ambivalence, and let whatever conversation ensued happen out in the open.
Alexandra Lange

In my opinion the art trumps the architecture and the ethics of ownership. It is about the art isn't it? Why should viewership be restricted by scholarship. The more people see the more possible it is to extend the social contract to a new generation.

As Randy Kennedy writes in the NY Times: Barnes Foundation

Some supporters point out . . . “the Barnes, like all great art collections, should not be preserved in amber, and will continue to live only if it is allowed to change.” I too love the collection and agree with William H. Helfand — “millions more visitors will be able to see and be inspired by these magnificent works of art.” It changed my life when I first visited the collection at the age of ten and I hope that it will do the same for future generations of artists and designers. The fact that Abbott Miller and his team of designers at Pentagram took on the role of discovering the “the DNA of Dr. Barnes’ vision,” makes me even happier. So to answer your question, I think we should celebrate the Barnes Foundation this May and support it’s new home.
Thank you Alexandra.
Carl W. Smith

I had the unusual experience of going to the Barnes in Merion about two weeks before it closed and then tagging along on a hard hat tour of the new Barnes building under construction just a few weeks later. What was most striking was the replication of the rooms in Merion in the new building, including the arches in which the Matisse mural was installed. This, we were told, was replicated using a laser scan of the original ceiling and fabrication by a company that normally creates ship hulls. The plan, as I understand it, is to install the works just as they appeared in Merion. Of course, this does not address the larger question of whether the Barnes should have been moved in the first place, but it certainly stands as a case study in the architectural uncanny.

A discussion of the legitimacy of moving the Barnes to center city Philadelphia is misplaced here, as is a debate on the health value of fast food. What Ms Lange is addressing is any designer’s decision to participate in a project that could possibly be construed as unethical. How is one to determine when a client is basely unethical or merely borderline? At what point does the design firm or the individual designer step away? All designers at some point in their careers will be faced with accepting work from clients whose contribution to the public welfare could be questionable. Milton Glazer recognized this when he published The Road to Hell in Metropolis Magazine in 2002. While there is no definite answer, Glazer at least proposed a blueprint. It should be required reading in every first year design class.
Floramae McCarron-Cates

I agree with Floramae McCarron-Cates that Milton Glaser should be required reading for first year design students. They should also learn to spell his name correctly...

Ooops! My sincere apologies to all.
Floramae McCarron-Cates

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