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.

Founded in 1910, International House Philadelphia (IHP) presents cultural programs in the areas of music, exhibitions, and cinema—the latter being its flagship program.

Grants & Grantees

Ars Nova Workshop presented a concert series featuring music by composers and multi-instrumentalists Henry Threadgill and Roscoe Mitchell, champions of avant-garde jazz.

Network for New Music commissioned six new works for the Network Ensemble that paired composers with visual artists.

The Institute of Contemporary Art set about organizing the first posthumous survey on the art of Jason Rhoades, consulting with the artist’s colleagues and collectors.

A number of Center-funded projects are New York Times and Philadelphia Inquirer fall arts picks.

This month, experience fraktur-inspired contemporary art, a queer-feminist dance party, musical peacebuilding, and postmodern aesthetics in one-day-only events and ongoing exhibitions.

Visual artist and Pew Fellow Pepón Osorio talks about the relationship between artistic practice and “the local.”

This exhibition at the Galleries of Moore College of Art & Design will critically re-examine the emergence and development of unorthodox, artist-driven, and collective artistic practices in Mexico City in the 1990s.

Playwright Ain Gordon and Beth Twiss Houting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania reflect on how Gordon’s immersive project An Artist Embedded in History has influenced their thinking and practices.

Grants & Grantees

Kukuli Velarde is a visual artist and a 2003 Pew Fellow.

Collaborators & Colleagues

Nette Compton is senior director of ParkCentral and City Park Development for the Trust for Public Land in New York City.

Grants & Grantees

Founded in 2005 by Christine Cox and Matthew Neenan, BalletX unites distinguished choreographers with a company of world-class dancers to “forge new works of athleticism, emotion, and grace.”