Questions of Practice: Barnes Foundation’s Thom Collins on Unpacking the Museum’s Collection Through Performance

We asked Thom Collins, director and president of the Barnes Foundation, about the role of performance within the museum. “We have historically not done so much in terms of unpacking all of the different ideas and histories that are attached to…the discrete works of art [at the Barnes],” he says. Collins explains how newly commissioned performance works from artists “who are thinking in a progressive way about the collection” are now part of the museum’s strategy to more fully tell the stories of the Barnes Foundation.

Thom Collins on unpacking the Barnes collection through performance. Filmed at the Barnes Foundation on May 31, 2016.

With Center support, the Barnes Foundation premiered Room 21, a musical performance piece created by composer Jace Clayton and curated by Lee Tusman, in September 2016. This month, the Barnes will open the Center-funded multi-part project, Person of the Crowd: The Contemporary Art of Flânerie, which will capture city life through a gallery exhibition, newly commissioned public installations and performances, and citizen-created photos and videos, on view through May 22, 2017.

Thom Collins is executive director and president of the Barnes Foundation. An educator, art historian, administrator, and author, Collins joined the Barnes in 2015 after serving for five years as director of the Pérez Art Museum Miami, Florida. Prior to that, Collins served as director of the Neuberger Museum of Art in Purchase, NY and the Contemporary Museum in Baltimore, MA. Collins earned his MA in art history from Northwestern University.

Questions of Practice

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Collaborators & Colleagues

Christine Kim is the associate curator of contemporary art at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.

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Grants & Grantees

Poet and 2012 Pew Fellow Kevin Varrone has worked for over 10 years on a multiple-book project entitled g-point Almanac.

The work of Schumann, Gesualdo, Brahms, and Mozart will be performed to evoke themes of fragility, unconventionality, and playfulness explored by the composers late in their careers.

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Collaborators & Colleagues

Claudia Rankine is the author of four collections of poetry, including Don’t Let Me Be Lonely and Nothing in Nature is Private, which received the Cleveland State Poetry Prize.

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Grants & Grantees

Kùlú Mèlé embarked on a two-week residency in Conakry, Guinea with traditional artists Mariama Touré and M’Bemba Bangoura.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Lance Fung has worked as an independent curator since 2005, realizing innovative projects in China, Finland, Italy, and the United States.

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