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With Jim Sabatini


The Art of the Steal

The Art of the Steal

Rated: No rating 
Reviewed by: Jim  
Release date: February 26, 2010 Released by: IFC Films

This one-sided, pretty esoteric cinema verite surrounding a treasured art collection in Merion, Pennsylvania makes its pointed case with a bit of sneer and snark.

Don Argott's The Art of the Steal underlines the conflict from fortune and art compiler Dr. Albert Barnes who founded the Brookes Foundation in the 1920s in part due to a pharmaceutical breakthrough called Argyol. Situated in Merion, an upper-class Philadelphia suburb, the magnificient post-impressionism included those of Matisse and Cezanne. But, Barnes loathed the city's high-falutin folks and kept his collection mostly under wraps, and had the less prominent and black Lincoln University as its beneficiary.

This contentious, a bit reiterating, yet often taut documentary shows what can happen as a result of Barnes' attitudes and complications arising from an intended move to a Philadelphia museum in 2012. Argott allows for a plethora of talking heads, including big politicians, as well as teachers and writers in art circles.

There's more than a little insinuation of some malfeasance in what is valued at twenty-five billion dollars. Feelings of preservation versus the intention of Barnes' will are prevalent with locals changing their minds about zoning issues for access to something that won't be seen by those away from the art world. This Steal has a one-sided, if often outraged eye on The Art of what is seen by the elite as "a tragedy."

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