In mid-May the Barnes Foundation opened at its new location in the cultural corridor of downtown Philadelphia. A cloud of controversy followed it to the end. The new building, handsome if flawed, from the gifted New York studio of Tod Williams and Billie Tsien, has attracted its share of criticism. The entrance, initially hard to find, is at the back of the building facing towards the car park and away from the parklands. The passage from entrance to galleries is awkward and inauspicious.

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The Steins Collect: Matisse, Picasso, and the Parisian Avant-Garde edited by Janet Bishop, Cécile Debray, and Rebecca Rabinow

June 2012, no. 342

Despite its unrewarding title, The Steins Collect, both exhibition and catalogue, tells the most captivating story of early modern art and its patronage. The cast of characters ranges from the downright difficult (Leo) and the overweeningly self-important (Gertrude) to sunny Californian idealists (Sarah and Michael). Gertrude and her brother Leo set up their joint ménage at 27 rue de Fleurus, close to the Luxembourg Gardens, in 1903. A year later, Michael, their elder brother, and his wife, Sarah, settled in Paris and lived close by at 58 rue Madame. By 1909 the two households had assembled the largest and finest collection of Matisse and Picasso anywhere. Though comfortably off, the Steins were not remotely among the super-rich, yet only the Russian collectors, Sergei Shchukin and Ivan Morozov, at the end of the decade, would challenge their supremacy.

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