The Art of the Steal
Directed by Don Argott
Released February 26, 2010
A documentary about a subject like art has the potential to be particularly interesting because it’s a field that tends to attract enthusiasts. It’s a tamer topic than something like politics, disease, or war, but the same sense of attachment and devotion still exists from the people who love it. The less sensitive nature of the material allows for an infusion of even more passion and fervor on the part of the filmmakers without the same need to be cutting-edge and incendiary to stand out from the rest. The wonder of what’s here is that it’s a timely expose that serves as a tribute to the desires of people long forgotten by many and completely unknown to the majority of the population.
“The Art of the Steal” is a chronicle of the history of the Barnes Foundation, an art collection based in Lower Merion, Pennsylvania. The film starts all the way back at the beginning with a profile of Albert C. Barnes and his vision for what his art should be and what should become of it. The film never loses sight of what Barnes wanted, and continues to posit his view in contrast to the actions taken by those who sought to go against his wishes and transform the nature, purpose, and location of his collection. To the same degree that the collection has lost the mark of its founder, it regains and becomes inseparable from it in this revealing documentary.
“The Art of the Steal” has a clever title that indicates both bemusement but at the same time a distinctly sad attitude about the state of things. It’s one of those films where the tone of the research and findings suggests that it’s impossible to believe that this is actually going on, yet it is. In that sense, it occasionally appears humorous, but that’s because there needs to be some way for those who have a deeply vested interest in the preservation of Barnes’ vision to cope with the reality of the situation. The position taken by the filmmakers is that the fact that this is going on right under the American people’s noses is an unbelievable tragedy, and they have the evidence and the interviews to prove it. “The Art of the Steal” isn’t just about documenting an event, but instead about documenting the process of a series of events throughout the past eighty-five years, and how the bad guys got away with it. While it may certainly present a tragedy, the film is a roaring, informative and entertaining success.
Saturday, February 27, 2010
The Art of the Steal