Derek Gillman on “Moving an Art Collection, Moving an Idea”

6:30–9:00 pm


The Barnes Foundation was established in 1922 by Dr. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951) to provide art appreciation courses for college students and “the ordinary man”. It has among the most important holdings in the world of Cézanne, Renoir, Matisse, early Picasso and Modigliani, as well as superb paintings by other Impressionist and post-Impressionist artists, including Monet, Seurat, Gauguin and van Gogh. The Barnes also holds fine Old Master paintings, important African sculpture, decorative arts from across the world, Mediterranean antiquities, and significant living collections.

The art collection was moved in 2012 from its original home in Merion, Pennsylvania, to a new building in central Philadelphia designed by New York architects Tod Williams and Billie Tsien. The elegantly landscaped campus opened to international acclaim in May 2012.

Derek Gillman talked about Albert Barnes as a collector and educator, outline the reasons for moving the collection into Philadelphia, and gave an overview of the architecture of the new building. The event was hosted at the UChicago Center by the Renmin University of China Museum.

Derek Gillman was Executive Director and President of the Barnes Foundation from 2006-2013.  Before joining the Barnes in 2006, he was President and Director of the Pennsylvania Academy of the Fine Arts, America’s oldest art school and museum, which celebrated its 200th anniversary in 2005.  Prior to moving to Philadelphia in 1999 he was Deputy Director of the National Gallery of Victoria, Australia’s major encyclopedic art museum, and from 1985-95 was Keeper (equivalent to director) of the Sainsbury Centre for Visual Arts at the University of East Anglia, England.  He has worked on significant building projects at each of these institutions.  He began his museum career at the British Museum, where he was research assistant for Chinese art.

Professor Gillman was an undergraduate at Magdalen College, Oxford University, where he first read Philosophy and Psychology, and then Chinese Studies, after which he spent a year at the Beijing Yuyan Xueyuan (1975-76).  He holds a Master of Laws degree by research from the University of East Anglia, and has written and lectured about cultural property and Chinese art.  A revised edition of his book The Idea of Cultural Heritage was published by Cambridge University Press in 2010.  He is President of the International Cultural Property Society, and was the 2013 Marina Kellen French Distinguished Visitor at the American Academy in Berlin.

Sponsoring Organizations:

RMuseum Shop, Renmin University of China  中国人民大学博物馆人博工作室

Research Center for Art and Architecture, National Art Museum of China 中国美术馆建筑和艺术研究中心

The University of Chicago Center in Beijing