Santa Cruz Good Times

Thursday
Sep 03rd
Text size
  • Increase font size
  • Default font size
  • Decrease font size

The Art of the Steal

film_ARTOFTHESTEALIts detractors call it "The scandal of the art world in modern America." The private art collection of Albert C. Barnes, "the single most important cultural artifact in America of the first half of the 20th Century," and how it was hijacked by an unholy alliance of museums, politicians, and custodians determined to exploit its marvels for profit, is the story told in The Art Of The Steal, a compelling, infuriating documentary from filmmaker Don Argott that sets up a classic case of corporate greed vs. legal and artistic integrity. The working-class son of a Philadelphia butcher, Barnes made a fortune with an antiseptic compound around the turn of the last century.

A self-taught art lover, he traveled in Paris and bought a staggering array of Impressionist paintings by Cezanne, Seurat, Picasso and Van Gogh—to name but a few. Contemporary estimates value the collection at $25 to $35 billion. As one member of the Barnes Foundation board of trustees puts it, "You’d need some kind of a nation to buy it." In 1923, he held a public showing of his collection in Philadelphia, where the work was denounced by provincial critics. Barnes called Philadelphia "an intellectual slum," and removed his collection to his private residence in suburban Merion, granting access only to art lovers and students, not tourists or the general public. Barnes had a curator's eye, displaying his paintings on honey-colored walls, grouped according to aesthetics, not chronology. Renoirs, Matisses and film_art_of_the_stealModiglianis hung cheek-by-jowl with Barnes' collection of sculptural antique hinges and African masks, making no distinction between "high" and "low" art, or art and craft. But Barnes died suddenly in 1951. The terms of his trust specified the collection was never to be sold, moved out of Merion, or delivered into the greasy palms of the Philadelphia Museum of Art (Barnes willed administration of the Foundation to a small black college, Lincoln University, upon the death of his own successor). But Argott's film details how the local art establishment, city and state politicians, charitable trusts, and a few opportunistic stewards along the way, set out on a 30-year campaign to circumvent those terms. A harrowing look at the depths to which profiteers will sink in the name of the public good, and a fascinating portrait of a truly eccentric player in 20th Century modern art. (Not rated) 101 minutes. (★★★) LJ

Watch movie trailer >>>

Comments (0)Add Comment

Write comment
smaller | bigger

busy
 

Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share

 

You Are What You Post

Online personality algorithms put astrological profiles to shame, but UCSC psychologists are raising questions about sharing personal data

 

Venus Direct, Mercury Retro Soon, Honoring Our Labors

As Burning Man (nine days, Aug. 30-Sept. 7 in the sign of Virgo) burns in the hot white desert sands, a petal of the rose created by retrograde Venus and the twelve-petaled Sun in Virgo’s petals unfold. All of us are on the burning ground (Leo) in the womb (cave of the heart) of the mother (Virgo), gestating for humanity once again (each year) a new state of consciousness. Both Virgo and Cancer, feminine (receptive energies) signs, are from our last solar system (Pleiades). When humanity first appeared on Earth we were nurtured by the mother, a matriarchy of energies (on islands in the Pacific). Eve, Isis and Mary are part of the lineages of our ancient Mother. Overseen by the Pleiades, the Earth (matter, mater, the mother) in that last solar system was imbued with intelligence (Ray 3). As we move toward autumn, another mother, Ceres realizes she has mere weeks left with her beloved daughter, Persephone. Persimmon and pomegranate trees prepare for autumn, their colors signs of hope as the light each day continues to dim. Sunday, Venus in Leo turns stationary direct, yet continues in her shadow until Oct. 9 (when retrograde Mercury turns direct). Slowly our newly assessed values emerge from the Venus retrograde. We thought in Venus retro how to use our resources more effectively. Mercury retrogrades Sept. 17. Monday is Labor Day. Let us honor the labor of everyone, all life a “labor.” Let us honor Labor Day and all those who have “served” (labored for) us this past year. We honor their labors. We honor the labor of our parents, those who have loved us. We honor our own labors, too. We are all in service, we are all laboring. We are all valuable.

 

The New Tech Nexus

Community leaders in science and technology unite to form web-based networking program

 

Girl Gone Wild

’70s SF recalled in raw, poignant ‘Diary of a Teenage Girl’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments

 

Sushi Garden

Local sushi empire expands to Scotts Valley

 

Do you overshare online?

I don’t think so. I just post things about my life, like successful things. Sometimes I just like sharing different news that I find interesting, or favorite artists, clothes, music. I like to post photos. Natalia Delgado, Santa Cruz, Server

 

McIntyre Vineyards

I recently met up with three friends for dinner at Sanderlings at Seascape Beach Resort. We chose to eat outside so we could watch the sun set over the ocean, but the Aptos fog rolled in and swallowed it up.

 

Sustainable Supper

The Homeless Garden Project’s Sustain Supper series supports its award-winning programs