The Art of the Steal is a wonderful film to watch while learning about how art acts in a public sphere. Albert Barnes had a vision of how art is to be viewed, and I agree with his belief in how the basic meaning of a piece of art can be lost when a dollar sign has been attached to it. This film highlights on how people in power positions can get in the way of the basic intent of a man’s legacy. It was appalling to see how Barnes’s Trust was systematically torn apart by the people who were greedily seeking for their own interests. I feel that the educational aspect was lost through the process and wish that Lincoln University had attempted to continue the classes at the Barnes Foundation. This would have kept Barnes alive in the collection and helped the school to recover from the under funding.
I feel that the film was created to highlight on the fact of how common the wants of one man is overpowered by the group efforts of the greedy. To gain perspective after I watched the film, I looked into what the Barnes Foundation is doing today. Through the film a quote from Barnes stuck with me, “the main function of the museum has been to serve as a pedestal upon which a clique of socialites pose as patrons of the art.” The Art of the Steal reinforced this idea. However, I feel that the Barnes Foundation is currently upholding many of the ideals that Barnes had in the beginning. Granted they are really trying to make money off of the patrons that visit the collection, which can be seen in the website, but to play devils advocate they are also offering many opportunities for education. The Barnes Foundation is a type of college on it’s own, offering weekend, monthly and year long educational classes based on the art in the collection, and Barnes’s beliefs of how the display changes the interpretation of the collection. I feel that this aligns with many of the ideas that we have been discussing in class. It is the idea that the art needs to made available for the public in an interactive manner in order for our community to learn and grow from the experience. As a side note, I do wonder on the validity of the United States involvement in protecting other cultures national treasures, when they cannot protect our own patron’s private property.