Ada Louise Huxtable, the Wall Street Journal
Once the nation’s greatest cultural achievement pre-World War II, it has now become America’s weirdest art museum. ... [T]he Barnes Foundation as we’ve known it is defunct. In its place stands a strange hybrid. On a 4½-acre site between the Free Library and the Rodin Museum, a small, 12,000-square-foot art building sits within a larger L-shaped structure. ... The rooms and floor plan are knockoffs of the foundation’s original home. ... The result is one part Colonial Williamsburg, where authentic and ersatz mingle; one part Lehman Wing, where an excellent New York collector’s expensive period taste is enshrined in a Metropolitan Museum of Art replica of his apartment; and one part Disneyland’s Main Street U.S.A. ...
Christopher Knight, Los Angeles Times
Barnes did so much, more than he was capable of knowing. We can know how much only if his orchestrations are taken apart and rearranged ever so slightly and briefly, once in a while. It is great that Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, the architects, adhered to his vision so sensitively, providing a kind of unwaveringly accurate baseline. But every so often the pieces of even his most revelatory ensembles should be freed from his matrix, just as his amazing achievement has been liberated from Merion.
Roberta Smith, New York Times
This building won’t please the absolutists. ... But it really ought to please everybody else, because — to cut to the chase — the new Barnes is absolutely wonderful. ... Williams and Tsien ... have managed to fulfill the requirements of the court decision and at the same time create a handsome, self-assured building that has not a whiff of the sentimental. It is a strong and distinctive new work of architecture on its own, a design that navigates skillfully between the dangers of slavish copying the old Barnes and what, for this unusual institution, would be the even more pernicious alternative of corporate-museum modernism.
Paul Goldberger, Vanity Fair
No knockoff can function as an acceptable substitute for the authentic experience of being in the founder’s own lovingly tended lair. ... Now that they’ve substantially breached the founder’s trust indenture, the foundation’s curators might just as well rethink his eccentric, thought-provoking but sometimes vexing installation. ... While Dr. Barnes’ arrangement should remain the primary hang, there should be occasional remixes, so that visitors can actually see some of the masterpieces that are placed too high for proper viewing and so that certain works can get to fraternize for a while with their relatives.
Lee Rosenbaum, Culturegrrrl, on Huffington Post
Tod Williams and Billie Tsien [have] done a virtuosic job of dealing with constraints that go well beyond Barnes’ founding orneriness. They were handed a skimpy, wedge-shaped plot of land along the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, a cultural corridor with all the friendliness of a parade ground. ... The complex is a basilica of sorts ... with a high, vaulted nave airy enough to inoculate visitors against the claustrophobia to come. This could have been a monstrous space. ... But the architects lidded it with a box of translucent glass. Sunlight flows through a hidden skylight of frosted panes, ricochets off the folds in a shell-like vault. ... In the end the architects have delivered the best compromise that this peculiar project allowed: a ravishing reliquary for a dead man’s embalmed dreams.
Justin Davidson, New York Magazine
Soon the dust will settle, the feuds will fade, and art will do what it does. Till then, remember this: Owners of art are temporary caretakers. Their wishes are not to be sacrosanct in perpetuity. The move of this singular jewel ... allows this monumental testament to art’s possibilities to shine forth more magnanimously and generously than ever before. When art wins, everyone wins. Even Albert Barnes.
Jerry Saltz, New York Magazine