The Art of the Steal

Director: Don Argott
Year Released: 2009
Rating: 3.0

I live in Pennsylvania, and I never knew about this one: apparently one of the priciest and most impressive collections of modern art, the Barnes Foundation (located in Merion), started by the late Dr. Albert C. Barnes, chemist and elitist grouch, is being moved to downtown Philly because of a lot of dodgy maneuvering on behalf of some key political figures in PA (Ed Rendell ... I see you) ... and all of this is against the explicit wishes of Dr. Barnes (according to his will). Regardless of your own opinion as to whether or not the pieces of art should be moved - I've read many, many reviews that dismiss this entire scenario with a (to me, baffling) shrug - and regardless of this 'documentary's' less than impartial tone (it's more of a call to arms ... without presenting all pieces of evidence), this is a scalding look at the awkward relationship between art and commerce: nobody cares about a dead man's personal vision or final testament, they're too busy worried about grabbing at cash to pump into crime-ravaged Killadelph's miserable economy. When people see the artwork Barnes collected (and commissioned) over a lifetime, they don't see artistic genius or the quality of the items he collected, they only see dollar signs. Wilde wrote that 'all art is quite useless' ... but, in truth, some art is financially useful.