Reshaping the story of a museum
The Barnes Foundation is home to one of the most important collections of Post-Impressionist and early Modernist art in the world, and includes masterworks by Cezanne, Renoir, Matisse, Picasso, Van Gogh, and others. The world-renowned permanent collection is known not just for the artworks themselves, but for their presentation in ‘ensembles’—groups of paintings, decorative art and sculpture that share formal connections.
Known primarily for their permanent collection, the museum introduced a regular rotation of robust temporary exhibitions, expanded programming to include frequent film and music events and added tours and experiences to make the museum increasingly relevant to new and repeat visitors. Together with the Barnes, AREA 17 helped reshape the story of the museum by reflecting that strategy on the website—creating an experience where visitors could easily access current and upcoming activities, plan their visit and learn more about the museum.
It was essential that the redesign reflect the singular nature of the Barnes, and in this we were inspired by the beautiful architecture of the building itself, which exhibits a unique blend of minimalism and warmth. By pairing a liberal application of white space with full-bleed, outsized artwork and imagery, the new site reflects the experience of being in the museum.
An extension of the experience of being in the museum, the website is visually rich and immersive. Bold leading imagery on exhibition and program pages are supported by gallery and media modules that allow curators to tell engaging narratives outside of the museum walls.
The main navigation is focused on the primary motivations of visitors to the website, with the mobile version presenting day-of information prominently. At the heart of the website is the ‘What’s on’ page that cleanly lists programming for the current and upcoming weeks.
On the walls of the permanent collection, visitors are presented with ensembles that Dr. Barnes created according to the formal elements of each work. Placed together without labels, the viewer is invited to consider the relationships between the works of art in their experience of it. On the website, visitors can create their own ensembles by exploring the connections that are made through color, line, light and space.
“In selecting a firm we were looking for a team that could bring excellent design and strategy skills to the table and, also, a firm that would take our lead in engineering specifications, and would open source code and knowledge about the project. It took us a lot longer than we anticipated to find the right match, but the choice was clear when we landed on AREA 17.”
Redesigning our website with AREA 17
By Shelley Bernstein, Deputy Director of Digital Initiatives and Chief Experience Officer
Behind our redesign for the Barnes Foundation
By Kemp Attwood, Product Director and Partner at AREA 17