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Review: The Art Of The Steal

Art school meets a whole lot of crazy
By ALICIA POTTER  |  March 9, 2010
3.0 3.0 Stars

Henri Matisse once declared the Barnes Foundation "the only sane place to see art in America." Yet according to Don Argott's compelling documentary, a whole lot of crazy has threatened the art school since its testy founder, Albert C. Barnes, died and his breathtaking $25 billion collection became a political and cultural hot potato.

Barnes's will stipulated that the art can never be sold, lent, publicly displayed, or moved from his home in Merion, Pennsylvania — not good news for the cabal of fat cats bent on exploiting it for big bucks. With passionate commentary from art experts, Barnes acolytes, and Governor Ed Rendell (one of only two "villains" who agree to interviews), the gripping yet hyperbolic drama examines the ownership of art and the public's right to it.

The presence of a former Barnes student as producer raises concerns, but the evidence is such that only the Cézannes and Renoirs appear framed.

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