February 16, 2004

Some idiosyncratic arrangements. It's a nice cold morning in Wisconsin. The phone rang at 11:30 last night, after I was asleep, so I ended up having the opportunity to read a few pieces in the new New Yorker last night. I read Peter Schjeldahl's article on the Barnes Foundation:
Thousands of wonderful objects fill a graceful ch√Ęteau that was finished in 1925. Among them, hundreds of School of Paris modern paintings and a smattering of Old Masters and American moderns are massed on walls covered in warm tan burlap, labelled only with the artists’ names. The pictures are interspersed with items of skilled metalwork (hinges, lock plates, utensils). Antique furniture, African sculpture, Pennsylvania folk art, Egyptian and Greek antiquities, and Southwest Indian rugs and ceramics and jewelry cluster throughout.
The question is whether this place can be kept intact, in its idiosyncratic form, according to the terms of the donor's will or whether a court will see the financial difficulties as sufficient to justify breaking it up. Schjeldahl begs for it to be kept as it is:
The Barnes is a work of art in itself, more than the sum of its fabulous parts. The same may be said for other institutionalized private collections—New York’s Frick, Boston’s Gardner—but without equal justice. None so engages visitors in an adventure of sensibility. As you test the virtues of the collection, they test you, probing the depths and exposing the limits of your perceptive powers. You don’t view the installation so much as live it, undergoing an experience that will persist in your memory like a love affair that taught you some thrilling, and some dismaying, things about your character. If there were other places like the Barnes, dispensing with it would not be tragic. But one minus one is zero.
You'll have to buy the paper copy to see the beautiful photograph of one orange-burlapped wall, a case of African sculptures, assorted paintings by Matisse and Picasso, and other items in an arrangement constituting one sector of the grand work of art by "the strange Dr. Albert Barnes."

The paper copy of this issue is also needed to read the David Sedaris story, "The Living Dead," which I also read last night. Serious mouse lovers should beware. Driving into work this morning, I was listening to slot 4 in the CD player which was also David Sedaris, the part where his sister Lisa is expressing her excessive concern about dogs and the story of the exotic turtles and the racoon that chewed two legs off each of them leaving them looking like half-stripped Volkswagens.

I pulled my nonstripped turtle-morphic green Volkswagen into the garage at Grainger Hall and came into my office where post-Impressionist reproductions (Matisse, Gaugin, Denis, Bonnard) are idiosyncratically arrayed on taxi-yellow walls.

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