Friday, April 09, 2010

The Art Of The Steal Review

Henri Matisse
Le bonheur de vivre

Starting off, I'll say I always hesitate to put up reviews, thinking I'm not articulate enough and at some point later I'll put up a better post. This movie deserves a really in depth look as do the facts of the case. With this in mind, here goes.

After seeing, The Art Of The Steal, I feel I have a much better grasp of the Barnes situation. The movie is absolutely fascinating and I highly recommend it as a deeply disturbing look at the kind of nation we have become. Of course, the movie was made by people with a very clear viewpoint which they state and reason openly. The fact that their opponents are so adamant about not doing so speaks volumes. When stripped away from the B.S., the ends justify the means is their only argument.

There are only three solid legal justifications for moving the Barnes, none of which has been proven. The first, that the collector would have wanted it, is so absurd that it was never raised. Few people have ever worked so hard or put more thought and effort into a will as did Albert C Barnes, every word of which contradicts what has been done.

Vincent Van Gogh
Portrait of the Postman Joseph Roulin

The second was the claim that The Barnes Foundation , was now too broke to maintain and protect the collection and more importantly, that it could not return to solvency without being moved into Philly. Again, this is almost certainly absurd since we are talking about perhaps the single greatest collection of art in the world in need of an endowment of perhaps $100 million. No serious attempt was ever made to raise this money by anyone who was interested in really preserving the institution as he intended it.

The third and somewhat more interesting justification is the real one that should have been honestly debated--that Barnes had an obligation to make the collection widely accessible, to the general public, after all it was a tax exempt institution.

Georges Seurat
Models (Poseuses)(1886-88)

Paul Gauguin
Haere Pape

Barnes had conceived of not a museum but a collection as an active part of a school, and I think until, the 1970's the number of people who saw the collection in a year could be counted in the hundreds. Even so, by later years, it was was open much more.

I suppose, one should be happy we are even talking about this. In almost every other nation in the world, such an important collection would have been seized by the state or king, period, end of story. Albert Barnes's quirky institution is one of the last great examples of the truly wonderful free institutions, like Oberlin College that were once typical in America.

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