By Carla Marie Rupp and Jason Rupp
There is an abundance of public art in Philadelphia. In fact, there is so much that the city has become a hot travel destination for art.
There’s public art in the airport, murals all over the city, outside sculptures everywhere, art museums full of pleasurable viewing of European, even American works, and lots of art galleries, even edgy art from high-energy art-academy students and professors.
And there’s “the Barnes,” the extraordinary art collection of legendary Dr. Albert C. Barnes at the Barnes Foundation. It’s the rage of the Philadelphia art world.
Long relegated to the Barnes Foundation in Merion, PA, it has relocated to a state-of-the-art facility on Philadelphia’s culturally rich Benjamin Franklin Parkway. The new location makes the Foundation’s amazing collection of art works — the world’s largest collection of Impressionist, Post-Impressionist and early Modern paintings, including 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 7 van Goghs and numerous other masters — more accessible to travelers.
The City of Brotherly Love has long enjoyed a reputation as a city of public art with such world-class museums as the prestigious Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA) and the Rodin Museum (containing the largest collection of the French master’s sculptures outside of Paris). The opening of the Barnes puts another layer on the city’s already delicious art cake. Its museums are on par with many of the celebrated art museums of New York.
Philadelphia’s popular tourism campaign “With Love, Philadelphia XOXO,” which is luring travelers from far and near, has now been expanded with the opening of the Barnes to include the promotion “With Art Philadelphia”. We’ve seen it all over and it appears to be luring art-lovers from Germany, Japan, France and Italy to the city. “The Barnes opening has brought a lot of fresh excitement to the city,” says Gary P. Steuer, Chief Cultural Officer for the City of Philadelphia.
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts
Welcoming its new Barnes Foundation neighbor, the distinguished Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, a jewel of a place founded in 1805, is housed in a beautiful historic-landmark building. Its must-see museum has been exploring its connections with Dr. Barnes, who years ago exhibited 75 pieces of his priceless art collection there. Don’t miss the PAFA, a recipient of a National Medal of Arts, with its rare museum and student shows containing edgy, impressive artistic pieces.
Going all the way with public art in Philadelphia could include staying in a cool hotel, one that delivers a stylish and modern design while preserving some of the Art Deco building’s historic details. Hotel Palomar Philadelphia, housed in the 80-year-old American Institute of Architects building, displays work by local and national artists.
The Palomar suits any art-oriented visit perfectly, and even hosts a free, fun wine reception for guests, with popcorn by the fireplace, from 5-6 pm daily. And for a morning surprise, the Palomar serves Italian cannoli with coffee!
Any traveler interested in public art in Philadelphia would have to leave time to explore the important Philadelphia Museum of Art, the third-largest art museum in the country. Anchoring the Benjamin Franklin Parkway to the west of the Barnes, it houses 300,000 works spanning 2,000 years. Visit its amazing collection that includes a Rogier van der Weyden altarpiece, a large Bathers by Cezanne, a room devoted to Philadelphia’s own Thomas Eakins and Marcel Duchamp’s mixed-media Bride Stripped Bare by her Bachelors (The Large Glass).
You can also take a complimentary shuttle service from the Art Museum to the close-by Ruth and Raymond Perelman Building to admire its Art Deco facade, photographs, designs, costume and textile collections. If you go back past the Barnes, just a few blocks away you’ll find the Sister Cities Park, with a nice visitor’s center, a fountain, a cute little coffee cafe and a sculpture naming all of the 10 “sister” cities, truly a witness to the global nature of Philadelphia.
If you go:
Greater Philadelphia Tourism Marketing Corp.
30 S. 17th Street, Suite 2010
Philadelphia, PA 19103
The Barnes Foundation
2025 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
20th Street/and the Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Philadelphia Museum of Art (PMA)
2600 Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19130
Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts (PAFA)
128 N. Broad Street
Philadelphia, PA 19102-1424
22nd Street/Benjamin Franklin Parkway
Philadelphia, PA 19101