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Movie Review: The Art of the Steal

Alternate Title: The Rape of Europa

Story: I am an art snob. There - I said it. I fondly recall days of yore when going to a museum was a wonderful experience. The galleries were quiet. They were not crowded and I could stand in front of a painting for as long as desired without being pushed and shoved by throngs seeking the now prevalent art mall experience. Today's blockbuster museum shows with those awful self-guided phone-like devices have groups of people clustering in front of a painting that the curator wants to discuss. They move like cattle and trample anyone in their way. I now go to museums early in the morning when the crowds are small so that I can have the experience that I remember in days gone by. Okay - back to the movie.

Albert C. Barnes was an entrepreneur. He made his money in pharmaceuticals. He used his fortune to buy art. He amassed a collection of Impressionist and Post-Impressionist work that was eventually the envy of all other collectors and museums. Criticized by high society and the art critics of his day, he decided to build his own space to hang his collection and to also use the space as a teaching tool for young students. He chose Merion, PA, a well to do suburb outside of Philadelphia as the permanent home for his collection and school.

His will was clear. His collection was never to be loaned, moved or sold. This film covers the travesty that occurred after Barnes' death in 1951. Young director Don Argott makes no secret about his point of view. He is strongly opposed to the idea (as do I) that was rammed down the throats of the people of Pennsylvania to move the Barnes Collection to downtown Philadelphia. He methodically unravels the cabal of political bigwigs and cultural institutions that orchestrated this 25 billion dollar theft of property and rights.

It is both fascinating and enraging cinema and regardless of whether you are an art lover or not - you will be involved, engrossed and maddened by this film.

For more information on the Barnes Foundation go to their website: http://www.barnesfoundation.org/

Watch the trailer here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=SbMNmjX87bI

Acting: Not applicable in a documentary.

Trivia: The Barnes Foundation houses one of the finest collections of French Impressionist, Post-Impressionist, and early Modern paintings in the world, including an extraordinary number of masterpieces by Pierre-Auguste Renoir (181), Paul Cézanne (69), and Henri Matisse (59). The collection also includes important works by Pablo Picasso (46), Chaim Soutine (21), Henri Rousseau (18), Amedeo Modigliani (16), Edgar Degas (11), Vincent van Gogh (7), Georges Seurat (6), Edouard Manet (4), and Claude Monet (4). Although renowned for its late 19th- and early 20th-century European paintings, the Foundation's collection also includes important examples of American paintings and works on paper, including works by Charles Demuth, William Glackens, and Maurice and Charles Prendergast; African sculpture; Native American ceramics, jewelry, and textiles; Asian paintings, prints, and sculptures; Medieval manuscripts and sculptures; Old Master paintings, including works by El Greco, Peter Paul Rubens, and Titian; ancient Egyptian, Greek, and Roman art; and American and European decorative arts and metalwork.

Predilection: I like art, politics and cabals. I have been to the Barnes several times and will never forget the experience.

Critters: Barnes had a cute black and white dog that he adored and seemed to take with him everywhere. There were also some goats featured.

Food: None

Sex Spectrum: None

Soundtrack: Philip Glass predominates.

Opening Titles: A fine opening sequence that gets you hooked.

Visual Art: A visual symphony of fine art.

Theater Audience: About eight other people and us.

Drift Factor: I was riveted throughout.

Predictability Level: High

Tissue Usage: 0

Oscar Worthy: Why not?

Big Screen or Rental: Go for the big screen if you can find it in your neighborhood.

Length: 100 minutes.