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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Critic Reviews for The Art Of The Steal
[Don] Argott has made a worthwhile contribution to a controversy that deserves an audience.
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.
The film's good versus bad scenario is, while understandable, too simplistic.
While The Art of the Steal makes a very convincing -- even bone-chilling -- argument... the film fails to even ponder why easier access to some of the world's greatest art treasures might not be an entirely bad thing.
It's a tangled web spinning so far out of control if it were fiction no one would ever have believed it to be possible, die hard conspiracy theorists likely to find the scenario too outlandish even for them.
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.
"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.
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?
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