Film Review: The Art of the Steal
Albert C. Barnes was a man with motivation. He worked hard to make money and then spend it on his extensive private art collection featuring many great impressionist artists. When he opened the Barn’s Foundation his main goal was to reserve it for students or people who were actually serious about appreciating the art. His is wishes were that the collection would never be sold, shared with other museums, or moved. These guidelines in combination with the billions worth of art that lied within the Barn’s Foundation is what made it so sought after, and eventually caused a lot of controversy. I think it is important to note that if the Barnes had had any children, there is a chance that it could have been saved. It makes me so sad that it was able to survive until money took over the situation. When it fell fully into the hands of Lincoln University was when it started to take more of a political turn which led to a whole chain of intense controversial events.
There were many conflicts in the film, but I would have to begin with one that bothered me the most. Dr. Barnes worked extremely hard in order to obtain his collection. He wanted it to be used for education and appreciation. Once politics took over, I feel like the education and appreciation was placed on the back burner and now the most important thing was exploiting the Barnes Foundation basically the financial benefits of politicians and their city. Although I agree with the overall position of the video I do think it was very bias. There was literally a bulletin board with the faces of the “enemies”. The side the video showed was very interesting. I think that I was assigned to watch this film because it shows many themes that have occurred at one point or another in art history; competition, greed, and circulation. These terms raised a question in my mind, who actually controls the art? Art, being the commodity that it is, is a controversial topic itself, but this film really got me thinking about who controls it because it is apparent that I do not know. I really enjoyed the whole film. Although I am not pleased with the final decision regarding the Barnes Foundation, watching how hard people were fighting for art was inspiring! I was without a doubt, engaged the whole time.
As far as preventing similar problems like this in the future, I’m not sure there actually is a solution. Dr. Barnes did all that he could in his will to make ensure that his collection would live on by his terms. Unfortunately, money sometimes trumps all. I do think it was very important for artists and local artists to stand up for what they believed in and defend Dr. Barnes’ wishes since he was gone. When there is competition between power and the people, the people have a very slim chance of winning. I don’t see anything wrong with trying though if it could benefit the greater good and the art world.