32 user 45 critic

The Art of the Steal (2009)

Unrated | | Documentary | 29 September 2009 (USA)
2:31 | Trailer

Watch Now

From $2.99 (SD) on Amazon Video

Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.


1 nomination. See more awards »
Learn more

People who liked this also liked... 

Comedy | Crime | Thriller
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.3/10 X  

Crunch Calhoun, a semi-reformed art thief, agrees to get his old gang back together to pull off one last heist.

Director: Jonathan Sobol
Stars: Kurt Russell, Jay Baruchel, Katheryn Winnick
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.6/10 X  

Herb and Dorothy Vogel redefine what it means to be an art collector.

Director: Megumi Sasaki
Stars: Paula Antebi, Will Barnet, Robert Barry
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A documentary on the German artist that includes glimpses at his studio, which has not been seen in decades.

Director: Corinna Belz
Stars: Gerhard Richter, Norbert Arns, Hubert Becker
Documentary | History | War
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.7/10 X  

The story of Nazi Germany's plundering of Europe's great works of art during World War II and Allied efforts to minimize the damage.

Directors: Richard Berge, Bonni Cohen, and 1 more credit »
Stars: Joan Allen, E. Randol Schoenberg, Maria Altmann
Documentary | Biography | Comedy
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.5/10 X  

A documentary on the life and current times of artist Wayne White.

Director: Neil Berkeley
Stars: Wayne White, Mimi Pond, Paul Reubens
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

Director Tamra Davis pays homage to her friend in this definitive documentary but also delves into Basquiat as an iconoclast. His dense, bebop-influenced neoexpressionist work emerged while... See full summary »

Director: Tamra Davis
Stars: Jean Michel Basquiat, Julian Schnabel, Larry Gagosian
Art & Copy (2009)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 6.8/10 X  

ART & COPY is a powerful new film about advertising and inspiration. Directed by Doug Pray (SURFWISE, SCRATCH, HYPE!), it reveals the work and wisdom of some of the most influential ... See full summary »

Director: Doug Pray
Stars: Mary Wells, Dan Wieden, Lee Clow
Helvetica (2007)
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.2/10 X  

A documentary about typography, graphic design, and global visual culture.

Director: Gary Hustwit
Stars: Manfred Schulz, Massimo Vignelli, Rick Poynor
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.9/10 X  

A profile of the noted and extraordinarily cheerful veteran New York City fashion photographer.

Director: Richard Press
Stars: Bill Cunningham, Anna Wintour, Michael Kors
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.1/10 X  

How LA Learned to Love Modern Art. A lesson in how a few renegade artists built an art scene from scratch.

Director: Morgan Neville
Stars: Eve Babitz, John Baldessari, Larry Bell
My Architect (2003)
Documentary | Biography
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.4/10 X  

Director Nathaniel Kahn searches to understand his father, noted architect Louis Kahn, who died bankrupt and alone in 1974.

Director: Nathaniel Kahn
Stars: Edmund Bacon, Edwina Pattison Daniels, Balkrishna Doshi
Documentary | Crime | History
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 7.3/10 X  

A man steals the Mona Lisa from the Louvre in 1911. His 84-year-old daughter thought he did it for patriotic reasons. A filmmaker spends more than 30 years trying to find the truth.

Director: Joe Medeiros
Stars: Celestina Peruggia, Joe Medeiros, Benito Mussolini


Credited cast:
Julian Bond ...
Himself - Chairman of the Board, NAACP
David D'Arcy ...
Himself - Correspondent, The Art Newspaper
Richard Feigen ...
Himself - World-Renowned Art Dealer (as Richard L. Feigen)
Richard H. Glanton ...
Himself - Former President, Barnes Foundation
Christopher Knight ...
Himself, Los Angeles Times
Ross L. Mitchell ...
Himself - Former Director of Education, Barnes Foundation
Irv Nahan ...
Himself - Former Teacher, Barnes Foundation
Harry Sefarbi ...
Himself - Artist & Former Teacher, Barnes Foundation
John F. Street ...
Himself - Mayor of Philadelphia (as John Street)
Nick Tinari ...
Himself - Attorney & Former Barnes Foundation Student
Robert Zaller ...
Himself - Professor of History & Politics, Drexel University (as Dr. Robert Zaller)


Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Plot Keywords:

art | barnes foundation | See All (2) »


The true story of a multi-billion dollar art heist and how they got away with it.





Parents Guide:



Official Sites:




Release Date:

29 September 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Искусство воровства  »

Filming Locations:

Box Office

Opening Weekend:

$39,019 (USA) (26 February 2010)


$541,027 (USA) (21 May 2010)

Company Credits

Production Co:

,  »
Show detailed on  »

Technical Specs



See  »

Did You Know?


Musette Waltz 3.17
Written be Georges Gasquy
Published be JRT Music (BMI), Tele Music (SACEM)
By arrangement with Sounddogs , Inc
See more »

Frequently Asked Questions

This FAQ is empty. Add the first question.

User Reviews

Fascinating, but Unbalanced
8 January 2012 | by (United States) – See all my reviews

This well-made documentary is informative and fascinating, but I don't think it fairly presents the arguments for those who disagree with its thesis, which is that Barnes' will should be meticulously respected as it pertains to his amazing art collection.

Those who feel otherwise are portrays as gangsters, thieves, Philistines: power-hungry jerks with selfish motives. While there is an undoubtedly an element of truth to those accusations, it is not the entire story. I feel I must play a little devil's advocate for a more charitable spin on 'the other side.'

It appears to me that the collection's arrangement and display in the original Barnes building is hopelessly outdated: crammed together in the style of a century ago, and arranged according to the whim of one man who is long dead. The modern museum gives art much more space to breathe, and scholars and curators can and do illuminate art by arranging it, and juxtaposing it, in new and different ways.

Why should these works be arranged, forever, in only one pattern, and in only one building? Blockbuster exhibitions are not merely money-makers for museums, but are opportunities to see art in a different context, and for scholars and curators to advance the study of art by combining pieces in new and different ways.

Why, logically, should cultural treasures be considered the property of one man legacy for all of eternity? I can see the logic of requesting an owner's wishes for a long period of time--say, for 50 years. But for centuries? Owners of art deserve respect, but the notion that ownership can extend out into an infinite future is crazy. Just as copyrighted works eventually enter the public domain, so should artworks become available for the benefit and enjoyment of the larger public.

Barnes' name should be, and will be, associated with this art for a very long time. But his obsessions and whims and taste should not dictate the fate of his collection for all time. Allowing the work to travel, and to be arranged differently, and to even move into a new building, is reasonable (over centuries, a dozen different curators and scholars might bring their era's thinking and aesthetic to the collection).

I concede that this might be painful for Lower Merion, and to those who agree with Barnes' will. But Barnes has been dead for decades. Ownership and control of objects of major cultural importance should, eventually, pass from the control of an owner who has long been dead.

And Matisse's line, about how the Barnes was the only sane place in America to view art, should be taken with a grain of salt: if he saw the best art museums in America today, he may very well have changed his mind. A world-class museum today is far, far superior to any art museum of a century ago. Each generation produces new scholarship, and artworks of genuine cultural importance should be available to the finest scholars and curators of each generation. To do otherwise is to overvalue the taste and importance of a single individual who died decades ago, and to undervalue the art's importance to the wider world.

10 of 13 people found this review helpful.  Was this review helpful to you?

Contribute to This Page