Santa Cruz Good Times

Nov 27th
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


Share this on your social networks

Bookmark and Share

Share this

Bookmark and Share


Santa Cruz Gives

A look at the organizations we’re asking you to support in our new holiday giving campaign


Gratitude—For Each New Morning With its Light

The full moon of Wednesday brings light to Thanksgiving (Thursday) under the Sagittarius Sun and Mercury. Mercury in Sag offers humanity the message (Mercury) of thankfulness and joy (Jupiter). No other sign represents food, music and joy better than Sagittarius (only Pisces, when not in despair). Beginning on Thanksgiving, we can list what we’re grateful for. Then we can continue the list, creating a daily Gratitude Journal. What we are grateful for always increases in our lives. On Thanksgiving Saturn/Neptune square (challenging) is in full effect. This can manifest as traditions not being honored, disappearing, falling away. It can also create a sense of sadness, confusion, of things not working out as planned. It’s best to be as simple as possible. And to focus on gratitude instead. Gratitude is a service to others. It is scientifically and occultly a releasing agent. Releasing us from the past, allowing our future—the new culture and civilization, the new Aquarian laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarius, the Age of Friendship and Equality—to come forth. Gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution for humanity and the world’s problems.” The hierarchy lays great emphasis upon expressing gratitude. Gratitude illuminates all that is in darkness. Let us be grateful during this season together. Being, for others, the light that illuminates the darkness. A Poem by R.W. Emerson: We are grateful … “For each new morning with its light/For rest and shelter of the night/For health and food/For love and friends/For everything thy goodness sends.” (poem by R.W. Emerson). I am grateful for my family of readers.


The New Tech Nexus

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


Pluck of the Irish

Mid-century immigrant tale engagingly told in ‘Brooklyn’
Sign up for Good Times weekly newsletter
Get the latest news, events

RSS Feed Burner

 Subscribe in a reader

Latest Comments


Second Street Café

Pies and tarts for all tastes—from traditional to adventurous


How are you preparing for El Niño?

Getting ready to buy some rain gear. Cory Pickering, Santa Cruz, Teaching Assistant


Fortino Winery

Cabernet and superb fruit wine from Fortino Winery


Tap Dance

West End Tap & Kitchen’s impressive menu to expand to Eastside location