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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

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Good Times Holiday Giving

Giving Where It Helps

 

Giving Thanks: The Thought-Form of Solution

We are in the time and under the influence of Sagittarius, sign of the wanderer, good food, good music, and the joy (Jupiter as ruler) that occurs from giving to others while simultaneously giving thanks from our hearts. Having the Thanksgiving holiday during the month of Sag is not a mistake. No other sign understands joy (an aspect of the Soul) as Sag (except Pisces when not in despair). “Sag is a beam of directed and focused light. The beam reveals a greater light ahead, illuminating the Way to the center of the Light,” emitting the Ray of Joyfulness. Thanksgiving is a time for gratitude; in the form of prayers, thoughts, feelings, wishes, hopes and greetings. Gratitude is something we still need to learn. Gratitude creates goodwill. Together, gratitude and goodwill create the “thought-form of solution” for humanity and our world’s problems. Gratitude and goodwill are the prerequisites for the reappearance of the Christ, the Aquarian World Teacher. In Ancient Wisdom texts it is written, “being grateful is the hallmark of one who is enlightened.” Gratitude comes from the Soul—the characteristics of which are love and wisdom (Ray 2). Gratitude is scientifically and occultly (mental, not emotional) a releasing agent. Gratitude liberates us and everything around us. Also a service to others, gratitude is deeply scientific in nature, releasing us from the past and laying open our future path leading to the new culture and civilization, the new laws and principles, the rising light of Aquarian, the Age of Friendship and Equality. The Hierarchy lays much emphasis upon gratitude. Let us be grateful this year and this season together. And so now the days of light illuminating the darkness begin (December’s festivals and feast days). Happy Thanksgiving, everyone. I am grateful for all of you, my readers.

 

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Film, Times & Events: Week of November 28

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