Don Argott's suspenseful “The Art of The Steal”—which delves deeply into the government and corporate takeover of a beloved private institution, the Barnes Foundation, by the city of Philadelphia and the Pew Charitable Trusts among other "charitable" organizations—is propaganda at its finest. The film follows the gripping saga of the art collection of the visionary Albert C. Barnes, who had the foresight to buy up the best of the best by iconoclasts Van Gogh, Picasso, Cezanne and Matisse among other masters while the rest of the stuffy art world turned up its collective nose. In turn, Barnes gave the finger to the rarefied museum establishment by founding a school in Merion, Pennsylvania where the artworks—now estimated to be worth $25 billion—would hang above the faculty and students with limited hours open to the public. This didn't sit too well with Barnes's arch-nemeses, the Annenberg family, and the rest of Philly's notoriously corrupt power brokers.
To read the rest of my review visit The House Next Door at Slant Magazine.