The Order of Things presents three large-scale installations by internationally renowned artists Mark Dion, Judy Pfaff, and Fred Wilson. Each of these works, commissioned for the show, is a response to the unconventional way that Albert C. Barnes chose to display his collection. The exhibition also features an installation designed by Barnes—a small room in the Merion gallery building that was replaced by an elevator shaft in the 1990s.
In designing his “ensembles” nearly a century ago, Barnes ignored the traditional rules of museum display, mixing modern paintings and old masters, furniture, metalwork, and household items. Formal concerns, rather than history or chronology, guided the organization of his collection. In overturning traditional categories of display, Barnes invented his own system for ordering the world. Much like an installation artist, he invited a different view of objects by shifting their context.
The Order of Things explains the philosophy behind the ensembles and their importance in the history of museum practice. At the same time—and in keeping with Dr. Barnes’s commitment to the development of critical thinking skills—the show invites thought about display in general. How are other museums organized? What meanings do their displays create? Are value systems and hierarchies implied in any presentation?
Curated by Martha Lucy, Assistant Professor, Drexel University; and Consulting Curator, Barnes Foundation.
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Wednesday–Monday 10 am–5 pm