The Art Of The Steal Reviews

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June 8, 2014
What it comes down to is a subjective medium and whether the owner's original wishes should be withheld. I don't give a crap either way, but I would lean towards upholding the original will of Barnes, just because that's a legally binding indenture. But I can't lose any sleep over some pictures painted by mostly syphilitic douchebags being available for even wider public consumption. But it is also obvious the way in which this move went down was done by typical (and also mostly venereal-diseased) politicians was morally wrong. Basically, I walk away from this documentary hating everybody involved, all around.
June 5, 2014
Fascinating portrait of a wealthy man who had a very good eye for art, and the way his priceless paintings came into the clutches of the City of Philadelphia
½ April 8, 2014
A fascinating documentary about how The Beast steals anything it wants - including private art collections.
Super Reviewer
½ January 27, 2014
Well done and very informative documentary about the Barnes Foundation. The filmmakers are one-sided in their approach and seem blind to the hypocrisy of their their thesis but they have nevertheless made a compelling narrative.
December 21, 2013
Just saw documentary Art Of The Steal about rape of the Barnes Foundation. Wow. Not since the Nazis plundered has there been such an art heist. Puts the pew in Pew Foundation
Super Reviewer
December 8, 2013
Compelling, informative, tragic, and undeniably entertaining (often unintentionally), Art of The Steal is an excellent documentary. The film examines the Barnes Foundation, named after Albert C. Barnes who, for many years, housed countless masterpieces of art (valued in tens of billions) in one building. The building, dedicated to be a purely educational institution, was awash in non-conformity in both presentation and execution, angering the establishment of his day.

The film documents the undermining of Barnes and his will, who laid out explicit instructions on the operation of his collection, as well as his intentions. We are introduced to a number of characters who, in their own way, seek to undermine this purpose. In many cases we hear them firsthand, other times we are introduced to their machinations by others. Taken literally, the film is about civil procedure, but at its heart, it's a film about greed and opportunism. The director, Don Argott, does a masterful job in presenting his case, and building tension. The legal subtleties of such a story are not necessarily interesting to most, yet Argott makes it positively cinematic, treating his subject with passion and skill.

In the end, it's a powerful indictment against supposed non-profit foundations, and the politicians who seek to capitalize for personal gain at every opportunity, with the Barnes collection marking a surprising intersection of all these interests.

4/5 Stars
July 13, 2013
I, coming into this documentary without an opinion nor knowledge of the subject, was very confused of who I should be siding with through the first half of the film. Only in the second half does the documentary should who the wrong side is, and it supplies many well crafted arguments towards it, but not much vice-versa (even if at points counterarguments are completely unnecessary).
May 6, 2013
Some of the greatest art treasures are those visited in situ. Paris rose to the occasion when it rebuilt the Orangerie and preserved Monet's Nympheas as he originally intended despite the fact that it took more than 6 years. Shame on us in the US for what has happened to the Barnes collection.
Super Reviewer
May 2, 2013
A perfect example of an overly biased documentary. Although he decision to move the Barnes collection was against the wishes of Barnes, the appreciation of the Barnes work is spread more broadly with its move into Philadelphia.
½ April 7, 2013
"The Art Of The Steal" is a sometimes-dry-but-oft-informative documentary about the dirty politics that led to $4.5 billion worth of art being taken over by the city of Philadelphia. The famous Barnes collection, the world's greatest collection of post--Impressionist artwork, has a rich history that is explained throughout the film, all centered around the litigation that slowly broke Barnes' will. The pieces were never to leave their home in Lower Merion, PA and yet, lawyers and politicians managed to send the collection on a world tour and eventually move it to a permanent home in downtown Philadelphia. This one hits close to home as it takes place in our own backyard and involves several figures that we know, including former Gov. Ed Rendell and the Pew family (contributors to Grove City College). The editing helps the film to have a good pace and focuses in on the intrigue, although it doesn't come off as a thriller like "Man On Wire." There isn't as much artwork in the film as I would have liked but I am very excited to visit the Barnes Foundation someday now that I know it's rich history and list of paintings by Renoire, Cezanne, Matisse, Degas, Van Gogh, etc. etc. etc. etc. etc!
½ March 30, 2013
Really fascinating look at how big money, big museums and endowments "really" work.
January 7, 2013
A very interesting watch. Undoubtly one-sided, and not always on the side I would argue for, but nevertheless an interesting perspective
December 18, 2012
Great story that keeps twisting and turning, well told.
December 1, 2012
Art of the Steal represents a good case study, on many levels, on what can happen when idealists, city politics, and money come into conflict. Otherwise, it was also a well crafted documentary providing context to the controversy and important perspectives from key players.
August 7, 2012
If you want to know about (What "ART" means?) discover the true story of Dr.Albert C. Barnes' collection. It is perfection. However the power of money won.
July 21, 2012
Yet another example of absolute power corrupting absolutely. Glanton was/is complete garbage, and it's a disgrace what was done to Barnes' will, beginning with him. Judge Ott "got bought," no doubt. Art took a back seat to money & power.
July 19, 2012
Unreal! Watch this!
July 16, 2012
Takes a long complicated history and legal tangle of multiple webs angles and puts things in a fairly easy to understand format. While, there was a slant given to one side of the argument, I the 'other' side was given a fair opportunity to explain their perspective. At least that chose to participate in the film. I can see both sides, but, the art owner's wish was the art owner's wish. It should have remained honored . . . for better or worse.
June 16, 2012
A very interesting documentary, especially for people in the Greater Philadelphia area. Many lessons to be learned from the many mistakes on both sides of the issue. Of course money ultimately wins out.
½ May 29, 2012
an interesting heist story, not one you would expect. makes you question everything about legal system. people just don't give a shit about you when you're dead.
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