Ticketing snags keep some Barnes visitors waiting

Posted: May 29, 2012

About 3 a.m. Sunday, a waitress, an ex-restaurant manager, and an assistant Philadelphia district attorney decided the night had just begun and headed for the trendiest scene in the city over the holiday weekend.

"This is like the craziest mixer you’ve been to your entire life," waitress Kristen Voget, 25, said.

"You have a van Gogh. You have a Cezanne. You have a Renoir," said Kaylee Collins, 28, the onetime manager, pointing to the respective masters’ Still Life, Peasant Standing with Arms Crossed, and Pomegranates hanging near one another. "It’s amazing. I’m overwhelmed by the collection."

Their rendezvous was the new Barnes Foundation museum on the Ben Franklin Parkway, then in the 17th of 56 hours of free opening weekend festivities, which started at 10 a.m. Saturday and continue until 6 p.m. Monday.

Those who showed up in the wee hours likely were unaware of the ticketing snags that caused some day-trippers to wait more than an hour to get into the gallery.

As early as Thursday, Barnes officials realized that more than double the daily allotment of 1,200 free tickets had been distributed, exceeding the gallery’s capacity, and the problem continued through the weekend, according to spokeswoman Jan Rothschild.

On Friday, the museum started giving visitors who held those tickets separate passes to enter the gallery for only one-hour time slots. The gallery capacity is 250.

"It wasn’t always, and it wasn’t everyone," Rothschild said, "but there were times when it was overbooked and busier than it should have been."

The museum sent e-mails Saturday to those who had signed up for the free tickets, advising them of the long waits and offering to rebook museum entries, she said.

Rothschild said that she couldn’t quantify how many of those 2,500 patrons who were issued tickets actually showed up, but that officials believed the problem had been fixed. The museum will continue to issue separate tickets to enter the building and gallery through the end of the festivities.

One patron, Kathleen Cole of Lambertville, said she arrived 15 minutes early on Sunday to pick up three 7:30 a.m. tickets. She got into the line for the gallery shortly afterward, but couldn’t get in until 9 a.m.

She was told she had to wait because the gallery was being cleaned, Cole said, adding, "They should have planned for the cleaning."

Rothschild said that two daily cleanings had been scheduled — at 7:30 a.m. and 6 p.m. "to protect the collection" — but that tickets had been inadvertently issued for those times.

"If I hadn’t been in line, I would have been extremely happy," Cole said. "The facility is nice. Everybody is friendly. The staff was apologetic. They were embarrassed."

In the earliest hours of Sunday, the Barnes drew a curious mix — art lovers, the occasional painter, parents with young children in tow.

Dale Rodel, his wife, two young children, and in-laws who live in Germantown, arrived between 6 and 6:30 a.m.

The building felt inviting with its soft colors and textures, said Rodel, 41, a computer programmer who lives in San Carlos, Calif., a suburb of San Francisco.

"It feels like a home. It doesn’t feel like a museum," he said. "The wallpaper gives it a soft home kind of texture."

His wife, Amanda Tatro, 36, was impressed with the number of windows and how the light streamed in.

"Art museums are usually much darker," said Tatro, a Philadelphia native whose daughter Adeline, 5, asked them questions about paintings like Leda and the Swan.

Silvio Trentalange, 26, of Philadelphia, the assistant district attorney who showed up at 3 a.m., had visited the original Barnes in Merion for an art history project in college.

The opening celebration on the Parkway "flips the stereotype of an art gallery on its head," he said. "It has a certain level of fun to it. It’s an awesome concept."

Before 7 a.m. Sunday, more than a dozen people had gathered for sunrise yoga on the west terrace.

Jaquetta Colson, 34, owner of Living Arts Dance & Fitness Studios in Northern Liberties, said she jumped at the idea to do the yoga session.

"Even with the traffic," she said, "you still have the birds chirping and the greenery. It brings you back to nature in the middle of the city."

Contact Darran Simon at 856-779-3829, dsimon@phillynews.com, or follow on Twitter @darransimon.

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