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The Art of the Steal
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The Art of the Steal (2009) More at IMDbPro »

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The Art of the Steal -- A documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art.

Overview

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The true story of a multi-billion dollar art heist and how they got away with it.
Plot:
Documentary that follows the struggle for control of Dr. Albert C. Barnes' 25 billion dollar collection of modern and post-impressionist art. | Add synopsis »
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Awards:
1 nomination See more »
User Reviews:
A history and a polemic See more (30 total) »

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)

Directed by
Don Argott 
 
Produced by
Lenny Feinberg .... executive producer
Gary E. Irwin .... line producer
Sheena M. Joyce .... producer
 
Original Music by
West Dylan Thordson 
 
Cinematography by
Don Argott 
 
Film Editing by
Demian Fenton 
 
Sound Department
Gary E. Irwin .... sound
Bob Schachner .... sound mixer
 
Camera and Electrical Department
Ben Hickernell .... additional camera operator
 
Editorial Department
Judah-Lev Dickstein .... associate editor
Rob Giglio .... colorist
John-Michael Trojan .... post-production coordinator
 
Music Department
Susan Jacobs .... music supervisor
Suzana Peric .... music editor
Albert Thrower .... music clearance
Jonathan Zalben .... music clearance
 
Other crew
Susan Norget .... publicist
Justin Wineburgh .... production counsel
Matt Wolford .... post production coordinator
 

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  • DIVE  sound post-production (sound mix)

Additional Details

Runtime:
Canada:101 min (Toronto International Film Festival) | USA:101 min
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56 out of 63 people found the following review useful.
A history and a polemic, 21 September 2009
Author: Chris Knipp from Berkeley, California

"'The Art of the Steal' is a documentary that chronicles the long and dramatic struggle for control of the Barnes Foundation, a private collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art valued at more than $25 billion."--Film publicity.

Actually, it's $25-$35 billion. The value is really incalculable. Albert C. Barnes (1872-1951) was a Philadelphian of working-class origins who used his fortune from an antiseptic compound called Argyrol to collect: 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses (including his commissioned, unique, Art of the Dance murals), 46 Picassos, 21 Soutines, 18 Rousseaus, 16 Modiglianis, 11 Degas, 7 Van Goghs, 6 Seurats, 4 Manets and 4 Monets. And these are quality, not just quantity: they include some of the named artists' best works. For Renoir, Cezanne, and Matisse, this collection is unique, and there may be no other private collection of such work of this magnitude.

Barnes was a great collector. He was also famously cranky and opinionated. He deeply and lastingly resented the fat cats of the city of Philadelphia who mocked the work in his collection when it was first shown. He chose to keep the collection away from those Philadelphian fat cats. A friend of the philosopher and educational theorist John Dewey, he built a museum in Merion, Pennsylvania (five miles from Philadelphia) on his own land, a 12-acre Arboretum, and restricted visits, running the Foundation as a teaching institution, which was his main focus in life from the Twenties till his death in a car accident in 1951. The collection was displayed as in a house, arranged with furniture and decorations, in aesthetically pleasing (if rather overly-symmetrical) groupings, rather than in the contemporary museum's open space, white wall style.

Barnes' will specified that the collection must never be loaned out or sold. His will put Lincoln University, a small black college, in charge of the collection after his death.

For a long time the Foundation was run by a close follower of the Barnes spirit, Violette de Mazia. But after she died in 1988, gradually, and recently quite rapidly, the will has been abrogated, the trust broken. In the Nineties, an ambitious man named Richard H. Glanton, who was then in charge loaned the collection to various major venues, including the Musée d'Orsay in Paris, and ending, ironically, at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, ostensibly to raise money. More recently a powerful nexus of politicians (the governor and the mayor of Philadelphia), the Annenbergs, the Philidelphia Museum, and rich charitable organizations, mainly the Pew Foundation, have worked not only to get control away from Lincoln University but to move the whole collection to a new building in the city of Philadelphia, where Barnes emphatically did not want his collection to be.

The documentary focuses on and sides with the opposition to this development. There was a court challenge to Judge Ott's decision allowing the move, but he opted not to consider it and the opposition has not appealed this decision.

That's the focus of the film. I confess to somewhat mixed feelings about these complex issues. I grew up in Baltimore, where the Cone sisters gave their extraordinary (if smaller) collection of similar work to the Baltimore Museum of Art in the Fifties, so anyone could look at it. But in those years, it was hard to get to see the Barnes collection, and even after it was opened up (against Barnes' will) it remained out of the way and so I've never seen it. In some sense it seems better that it may now be viewed by a lot of people in Philadelphia. Barnes shouldn't made a collection of this magnitude so difficult of access. On the other hand, the fat cats have raped Barnes' will and ignored his intentions. It has now been stolen away from its original administrators and all Barnes' wishes have been willfully violated. Two wrongs don't make a right. There was a problem, but this is not the proper resolution.

Emotions run high among the talking heads; most of the principals responsible for the latest, final takeover declined to be interviewed. Biased though this film is, it has law and the rights of collectors on its side. And it reveals some political funny business that would make Michael Moore salivate. It's an ugly picture of art being turned into a battle for power and money and exploited for political luster and tourist potential. Instructive and disturbing.

An official selection of the New York Film Festival at Lincoln Center, shown earlier in the TIFF, the film now (Sept. 21, 2009) has been picked up by a distributor, IFC.

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Recent Posts (updated daily)User
The fact is this...this is Mr. Barnes art tbat82
Movie does not answer obvious question SurrenderToto
Music Gia258
Dr. Barnes was a d-bag. the_mingk
What this movie is really about KolaDude
if the art in this place is worth 20+ billion dollars defcaliber585
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