Without great fanfare Friday, the Barnes Foundation gallery marked its first anniversary on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway by permanently installing the famous portrait of its founder, Albert C. Barnes, at the entryway to its even more famous galleries.
Barnes, as rendered in 1926 by Giorgio de Chirico, will gaze placidly and rather glumly down on visitors right before they enter the light-drenched rooms filled with the doctor's extraordinary collection of Renoirs, Cézannes, Matisses, Van Goghs, Picassos, and works by other masters of early modernism.
Derek Gillman, foundation president and executive director, made a few remarks before the portrait as several hundred visitors and alumni of the foundation's art-appreciation program looked on. A Brazilian combo filled the soaring light court with samba rhythms. Drinks were sipped.
Such a scene, low-key as it was, would have been unthinkable at the foundation's longtime home in Merion. Restrictions on visiting and activities would have rendered it virtually impossible. Even the portrait of Barnes was never on public view.
At its new location in Philadelphia, however, music and food and lots of people are routine.
In its first year, the foundation has seen more than 335,000 visitors. Its annual membership program has soared past 25,000.
And while officials are not ready to release fiscal 2012 revenue figures yet, they say the foundation is tracking financial projections.
"Visitation continues to be strong," said Peg Zminda, Barnes executive vice president and chief operating and financial officer. "There are a number of days we've had to turn folks away. On weekends, that's the case."
Zminda said the gallery is averaging 850 to 900 visitors a day, with no more than 250 in the gallery's small rooms at any given moment.
In Merion, because of court-mandated restrictions, no more than 450 a day were allowed, and that was only during the gallery's last year of operation at its Latchs Lane location.
Barnes officials said about 8,000 students visited during the first year, including 4,500 Philadelphia schoolchildren, kindergarten through eighth grade.
"Access to the collection," Zminda said, "was a strong part of the reason for relocation" to Philadelphia.
Since last June, the gallery has hosted a range of live music performances, film screenings, symposia, lectures, and even a dance performance - drawing visitors to the gallery.
Meanwhile, officials said activity in Merion, home to the foundation's highly regarded, if small, horticulture programs, has also increased since the move. About two dozen students are enrolled in the three-year program. That compares with about 15 or 16 before the move.