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The Art of the Steal (2009)

Unrated | | Documentary | 29 September 2009 (USA)
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Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

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Cast

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)
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Storyline

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) »

Taglines:

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

Genres:

Documentary

Certificate:

Unrated

Parents Guide:

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Details

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Language:

Release Date:

29 September 2009 (USA)  »

Also Known As:

Искусство воровства  »

Filming Locations:


Box Office

Opening Weekend:

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

Gross:

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

Production Co:

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Soundtracks

The Dry Lake
Written by Dylan Carlson
Performed by Earth
Courtesy of Southern Lord
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User Reviews

 
An eye-opening tracing of the fate of one of the most prestigious collections of art in the world
6 December 2010 | by (Arroyo Grande, CA) – See all my reviews

"The Art of the Steal" follows the fate of The Barnes Collection, the most prestigious and valuable post-impressionist art collection in the world, tracing the battle between collector and museums over the course of 75 years. The origin of the collection is quite a story: Dr. Barnes, who had gained wealth in breakthrough scientific research, acquired some of the best modern paintings of the time by having something that museums and art critics of the time didn't have - taste and pure intuition. Over time, however, the artwork garnered the acclaim it deserved, but Barnes was determined to keep his collection private and have it appreciated by those who were willing to give the paintings the proper study they deserved. This belief became a trademark of his estate, but after Barnes' death and the passage of time, ownership of the collection became more and more blurry and penetrable to former enemies of Barnes, namely The Philadelphia Enquirer and The Philadelphia Art Museum, who wished to make the gallery public. After years of legal struggle (a series of back and forths the documentary covers to an almost painful degree), the city finally obtains it for a measly $107 million, a shadow to the estimated $25 billion the collection is worth.

The documentary is very clear in pointing out that the fate of the collection is directly contrary to what Barnes had wished for it. In fact, everyone who has hands currently on the collection are the very people who opposed and battled the existence of the collection to begin with. What the documentary doesn't present very well is the passage of time - Barnes has been dead for nearly 60 years, and keeping the wishes of a dead man alive when that much money is at stake and ownership is juggled around naturally becomes a more and more difficult thing to do. What it effectively portrays is the tourist attraction that art has become, a cash cow to governments who have the opportunity to capitalize on it. Whether this is a travesty or not is up to debate, but what is certain is that the city of Philadelphia effectively stole the property of Barnes and mocked the idea of personal wealth. The overall outcome is that now the collection can be viewed by anyone and everyone publicly - a point that the documentary seems determined not to emphasize (one reason is probably because 90% of the interviewees were associated with or supported the original foundation.) As nothing more than a spectator, I'm personally excited that this legendary artwork will be on display for everyone to see for the first time, but being aware of the underbelly of politics behind the gallery makes the silver lining all the more bittersweet.


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