The Art of the Steal (2010) – Don Argott

Effecting but one-sided documentary about the so-called robbery of billions worth of post-impressionist and modern art that was bought by a private collector who had a much better eye than the art establishment he disdained. He spent his life buying up their works long before names like Renoir, Matisse, or Van Gogh were in such high esteem (this collector bought dozens of each, on top of scores of Picassos and Seurats). The film tells the story of the battle for these pieces after the collector’s death. The man’s will states flatly that the pieces are never to be moved from the foundation he built for them and that they are not accessible to the public in the way of a museum and that they must remain where they are. The film argues that the swells and hoity-toitys of Philadelphia infiltrated the board of the foundation and that a conspiracy took place to move the art to a new, museum-like location. The film has a good point to argue and certainly does that but it focuses 100% of its time on the people agains the move (true, many of the actors on the other side refuse to participate, we’re told). And I’m with the movie, the man’s will should be honored, even if it denies the public these remarkable pieces, but I couldn’t help thinking of a much more even film I’d seen recently (The People vs. George Lucas) that showed both sides of a similar argument (who owns art).

Leave a Reply