The Art Of The Steal (2010)


Critic Consensus: Deeply esoteric and unapologetically one-sided, The Art of the Steal proves a documentary doesn't have to make an objective argument as long as it argues well.


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Movie Info

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

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Critic Reviews for The Art Of The Steal

All Critics (60) | Top Critics (22)

Argott beautifully explicates how this crew pulled off the most daring daylight art theft in history, though his passionate identification with the pro-Barnes faction limits the movie's political nuance.

Jan 3, 2011 | Full Review…

The film's good versus bad scenario is, while understandable, too simplistic.

Apr 16, 2010 | Rating: B+ | Full Review…

The Art of the Steal ultimately gets mired in the legal weeds, a snare made all the more frustrating by the fact that the move is a fait accompli.

Mar 26, 2010 | Rating: 2.5/4 | Full Review…

It's impossible not to be moved by the almost eerie film footage of the walls of the Barnes' original home with the art removed, revealing bare hooks and patches of unfaded paint: ghosts, doomed to wander.

Mar 25, 2010 | Rating: 3/4

A blunt, persuasive documentary.

Mar 19, 2010 | Rating: 3/4 | Full Review…

I found it fascinating for a number of reasons, balanced reporting not among them.

Mar 19, 2010 | Full Review…

Audience Reviews for The Art Of The Steal


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.

Christian C
Christian C

Super Reviewer

"The Art of the Steal" is a documentary about the history of the Barnes Foundation, a philanthropic and educational institution created by Dr. Arthur Barnes in 1922 in suburban Philadelphia to house his collection of impressionist art, valued currently somewhere in the billions. The film's focus is on the fight to move the foundation to Philadelphia and I do concede that this violation of Barnes' will could be considered a travesty. However, the documentary allows for no such subtle shadings; you are either with the Friends of the Foundation or you are greedy and pure evil. On the one hand, you have Dr. Barnes who is venerated(his successor is deemed a disciple, not a protege) and his followers, who once sat at his knee to listen to him dispense knowledge to those wise enough to seek it and now dictate taste and come off as intellectual snobs.(Shouting 'philistines!' at a protest is not going to win you any friends.) And then there is Walter Annenberg, the devil incarnate, publishing magnate and all that is wrong with Philadelphia society, apparently plotting his revenge against Barnes for decades for taking his collection to the suburbs of which the move is the final result.(Being photographed with Nixon does not necessarily make one evil, even though it could do severe damage to one's karma.) But Philadelphia of 1922 is not the same city it is today, with the clearest sign of that being an African-American mayor. Nor did the documentary get me to rethink my support of museums. Yes, the wealthy patronize them but they also allow the average citizen to see classic art found nowhere else and I fondly recall an exhibit of British Museum treasures in Victoria, BC a couple of years ago.

Walter M.
Walter M.

Super Reviewer


Documentary on the political infighting in the struggle to control the Barnes Foundation, a charitable trust that owns post-Impressionist masterpieces worth billions of dollars. Surprisingly interesting (if one sided) tale of love of money triumphing over the love of art; how many movies will you ever see where the Pew Charitable Trust and the Philadelphia Museum of Art are the bad guys?

Greg S
Greg S

Super Reviewer

Wicked documentary that traces a beurocratic takeover of an artistic institution with enough twists and turns to maks SHUTTER ISLAND look like ROMPER ROOM (not that it doesn't already...). It's a case of "this story musta rocked the artworld, but I never heard about it" that leads to "damn, now I have to tell everybody about this story!" So I'm telling you. It's called THE ART OF STEAL and for bargain shoppers it's even available on demand.. Just sayin'...

Jeff Talbott
Jeff Talbott

Super Reviewer

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