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75

Generally favorable reviews - based on 19 Critics What's this?

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7.5

Generally favorable reviews- based on 6 Ratings

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  • Summary: In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes created The Barnes Foundation in Lower Merion Pennsylvania, five miles outside of Philadelphia. He formed this remarkable collection of Post-Impressionist and early Modern art to serve as an educational institution. Dr. Barnes built his Foundation away from the city and cultural elite who scorned his collection as “horrible, debased art,” and set it on the grounds of his own home, an arboretum in the leafy suburbs. Tastes changed, and soon the very people who belittled Barnes wanted access to his collection. When Dr. Barnes died in a car accident in 1951, he left control of his collection to Lincoln University, a small African-American college. His will contained strict instructions, stating the Foundation shall always be an educational institution, and the paintings may never be removed. Such strict limitations made the collection safe from commercial exploitation. But was it really safe? More than fifty years later, a powerful group of moneyed interests have gone to court to take the art – recently valued at more than $25 billion – and bring it to a new museum in Philadelphia. Standing in their way is a group of former students who are trying to block the move. Will the students succeed, or will a man’s will be broken and one of America’s greatest cultural monuments be destroyed? (Sundance Selects) Expand
Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 18 out of 19
  2. Negative: 0 out of 19
  1. 88
    What is finally clear: It doesn't matter a damn what your will says if you have $25 billion, and politicians and the establishment want it.
  2. Reviewed by: Stan Hall
    83
    Packed with more intrigue and excitement than one might expect.
  3. Reviewed by: Cliff Doerksen
    80
    Documentary maker Don Argott (Rock School) beautifully explicates how this crew pulled off the most daring daylight art theft in history, though his passionate identification with the pro-Barnes faction limits the movie's political nuance.
  4. Despite the unsubtlety of the movie’s stance, a dizzyingly complex portrait emerges: that of pissed-off museum neighbors, arrogant critics and even the NAACP’s dignified Julian Bond, articulating a racial component.
  5. The Art of the Steal is activist filmmaking, but it's well-done activist filmmaking. And, given that the Barnes fight isn't quite yet over, it could also become the most most important kind of filmmaking: the kind that makes a difference.
  6. 70
    The film can be dry and a little repetitive. For all of that, it still manages to generate a surprising measure of suspense and it produces outrage in abundance.
  7. Argott treats Barnes' story as an intellectual crime thriller, uncovering each new surprise -- and a seemingly endless parade of villains -- with a deadpan flourish.

See all 19 Critic Reviews

Score distribution:
  1. Positive: 1 out of 1
  2. Mixed: 0 out of 1
  3. Negative: 0 out of 1
  1. Jan 8, 2011
    8
    A suspenseful and ultimately tragic look at how a man's $25 billion art collection has been completely undermined by those who do not care about his intentions or philosophy. I'm not sure why Ed Rendell would have agreed to be interviewed for this because he comes off like a real jag. Expand