Friday, July 27, 2012


This Blogger was pleased to attend an advance screening of THE BARNES COLLECTION, a new 60 minute documentary on the Barnes Foundation.
BARNES tells the life story of Dr. Albert Barnes and his large priceless art collection, considered to be among the worlds greatest. It chronicles his life and reveals his intimate thoughts, while detailing the Foundation’s past and present galleries in Philadelphia.

BARNES is a technically proficient documentary and a visual marvel. With excellent access to personal letters, historic documents, and Foundation staff, Dr. Barnes’ life practically re-emerges from the grave.  The film smartly intercuts between past and present seamlessly, and with the help of handy-dandy timeline, it is never difficult to keep up. BARNES is crafted very well; shot beautifully, edited with grace and precision, and held together by David Morse’s exquisite narration.
However every documentary, whether it realizes it or not, needs to tell a story. BARNES, while very informative and educational, has no arc; there is no journey, no build-up, and no climax. It is difficult to believe that such a storied man and foundation has no story to tell in the traditional sense, so with no conflict to overcome and no resolution of said conflict, the film’s final moments/ending feels abrupt and empty. BARNES never gets into the controversies the Foundation has faced over years, which robs it of any drama. The decision to exclude such conflicts was likely done out of time constraints, and it would be interesting to see an extended cut of this film down the road.

Despite the flaws, the film accomplishes its goal in educating an Art Dummy (this Blogger) on Dr. Barnes and his skill as a collector. Art-buffs may get a lot more out of it, but the average schmuck can still take away an appreciation of the art of collecting. There is a lot to admire in THE BARNES COLLECTION, and tells just enough of a large story to get someone interested in going to the art gallery.
THE BARNES COLLECTION will air on PBS in early August.


1 comment:

  1. The Barnes Collection will air on WHYY-TV and PBS stations around the country on Friday, August 3 at 9PM EST as part of the PBS Arts Summer Festival. (Check your local listings.)


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