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The Art of the Steal

Watch the trailer - 9.14 Pictures  
“The Art of the Steal” 2009, USA, 101m

Donate and receive a gift of the DVD of “The Art of the Steal” for donations of $35 or more!  The movie has a retail value of $24.98.

In the Press

"Real Clear Arts" by Judith H. Dobrzynski on Culture
Can This Documentary Save The Barnes? A Sneak Peak. The countdown begins: On Feb. 26, The Art of the Steal -- The documentary about the struggle for the control of the Barnes Foundation -- opens in theaters (two days after it can be seen on demand) in New York and Philadelphia.


“Art After Death,” by Scott Macaulay in Filmmaker, The Magazine of Independent Film
(Don Argott) “We are a young country, and we don’t respect our history as much as we should — especially in Philadelphia, where it should all be about preserving the history. We have Independence Hall and the “Rocky Steps,” and [you would think the Barnes Collection] would be something we’d want to champion and preserve as well. But it’s the opposite of that, and that’s a travesty. As much as the powerful people involved, The Pew [Charitable Trust] and the Annenberg [Foundation] do great things for Philadelphia, it doesn’t mean they don’t make mistakes and shouldn’t be held accountable for them.


Critic's Notebook: "The Art of the Steal: The Untold Story of the Barnes Foundation,"by Christopher Knight on Culture Monster, the LA Times blog
“The Art of the Steal: The Untold Story of the Barnes Foundation” is a riveting — and tragic — documentary film chronicling the gratuitous ruin of a school outside Philadelphia that houses an incomparable art collection. It's a classic story of destroying the village in order to save it.

Except this little saga comes with an unexpected twist: “Saving” the Barnes turns out to have been a sham, as the title's claim of artful theft implies. (Full disclosure: I was interviewed for the film and appear, uncompensated, in it.) That slowly evolving turn of events finally leaves a viewer slack-jawed and angry.
Full story


“Bringing back Barnes, on film,” by Steven Rea in The Philadelphia Inquirer
“The work of Philadelphia filmmaker Don Argott, The Art of the Steal won standing ovations at its two public screenings. Folks were turned away at press and industry screenings, and at least four distributors have made bids. (Whether and when it's seen in Philadelphia hinges on a deal.)”


“Populism and Propriety” by Julia Harte in City Paper
“Inside, documentarian Don Argott's cinematic take on the now-familiar controversy flickered on the silver screen as part of the New York Film Festival before a spellbound crowd of 1,000, all dressed to the nines. Philadelphia's dirty laundry was on full display.”


"The Art of the Steal" by Todd McCarthy in Variety
“The slow-motion hijacking of the world's greatest privately held art collection is documented in impeccable, heartrending fashion in "The Art of the Steal."


“From Toronto to glory,” by Steven Rea in The Philadelphia Inquirer
“…Of particular interest to Philadelphia-area residents, and art lovers the world over, is Don Argott's The Art of the Steal, a conspiracy theory-documentary about the Barnes collection and its controversial move from Merion to a new site on the Benjamin Franklin Parkway.”
Full story


“’Art’ Packs Punch at NYFF Screening,” by Brian Brooks on Indie Wire
 “It’s not often that a post-screening Q&A produces big fireworks, especially at such a venerable and reserved affair as the New York Film Festival, but the sparks flew Wednesday night following Don Argott’s doc, ‘The Art of the Steal.’”


“What’s Wrong with a Little Elitism?”, by Eugene Hernandez on Indie Wire NYFF ’09 Notebook
“’Elitist bullshit’ yelled an audience member at the New York Film Festival on Tuesday night. “What’s wrong with a little elitism,” countered another inside Alice Tully Hall, site of the 47th New York Film Festival. Members of the typically reserved Lincoln Center crowd were stirred by Don Argott’s “The Art of the Steal,” among the latest of festival titles to rile some moviegoers here.”


“The New York Film Festival, The Art of the Steal,” by Tom Hall, in  the blog “Back Row Manifesto” (Indie Wire)
“You can’t tell a good story without a strong point of view, without a sense of doing advocacy for both your subject and your own perspective, and so, when I am not throwing up in my mouth as people criticize documentaries for “playing with the facts”, I usually end up shaking my head in disbelief that anyone could possibly want what they’re asking for.”
Full story


"In Violation of His Wishes," by Julia M. Klein in the Online Wall Street Journal
“A new documentary, "The Art of the Steal," directed by Don Argott, a Philadelphia filmmaker, skillfully summarizes much of this history. And, as the title suggests, it casts a cold eye on the forces and players working to uproot Barnes's art from the lush arboreal setting he favored to the museum-lined, tourist-rich Benjamin Franklin Parkway just five miles away.”


“The Serious Regard For Cinema,” by Manohla Dargis, in The New York Times
“Few of the movies showing in the first week are as openly, generously pleasurable and inviting. (The selection committee members are the program director Richard Peña and the film critics J. Hoberman, Scott Foundas, Melissa Anderson and Dennis Lim.) Among the bright exceptions is Don Argott’s “Art of the Steal,” which energetically traces the history and scandals surrounding the Barnes Foundation, home to one of the world’s most celebrated collections of modern art. Established by Albert C. Barnes, a Philadelphia boy turned art patron, the collection is being moved from its original home outside that city to downtown, a bitterly contested relocation that has pitted politicians and other power elites against those dedicated to preserving Barnes’s wishes. The movie will be released by Sundance Selects.”
New York Film Festival for the complete review


“Will the filmmakers behind The Art of the Steal steal away to Canada?” CBC News blog
“In making the documentary, director Don Argott made a lot of powerful enemies in the city of the Liberty Bell. At the Q&A following the premiere public screening at TIFF, Argott jokingly wondered if Toronto could offer the filmmakers artistic asylum.”


“The Tangled Case of the Barnes Foundation and Its Art Treasures: Don Argott…Talks About his New Film,” by Eric Kohn in Speakeasy, an arts blog from The Wall St. Journal


“The Hot Doc — The Art of the Steal” by Richard Lacayo on TIME’s blog,  Looking Around 
Part One:   “The surprise hit of the Toronto Film Festival a few weeks ago was The Art of the Steal, a documentary about the still-in-progress hijacking of the phenomenal Barnes Foundation art collection, one of the greatest in the world, by the powers-that-be in Philadelphia.”

Part Two:  “Barnes was an early supporter of civil rights for African-Americans, and in 1946 he befriended Horace Bond, president of Lincoln University, a school in rural Pennsylvania that was the oldest African-American college in the U.S., alma mater of Langston Hughes and Thurgood Marshall.”

Part Three:  “The Plot Thickens:  “What nobody disputes is that Glanton wanted to shake things up at the Barnes. By November he had gone before the Montgomery County court that oversees wills, and which could adjust the terms of governance for the Barnes, to request a one-time authority for the Barnes board to consider selling at least 15 works from the collection, something Barnes had strictly forbidden. It was an idea that Glanton arrived at with Walter Annenberg, Barnes' lifelong enemy.”

Part Four: “By the end of the tumultuous era of Barnes president Richard Glanton, with its big multi-city tour of Barnes paintings — money in! — and its big costly lawsuits — whoops, money out — the Barnes was ripe for the picking.”

Part Five:  “But then he (former Attorney General D. Michael Fisher) adds, with a little smile:  "I had to explain to them (the Lincoln University Board of Trustees) that maybe the attorney general's office would have to take some action involving them that might have to change the complexion of the board. Whether I said that directly or I implied it, I think they finally got the message."


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