Lack of Clear Vision, Viewpoint Handcuffs ‘The Art of the Steal’
CHICAGO – Remember the golden rule? Those who have the gold makes the rules. An illustration of this point is in the new documentary “The Art of the Steal,” a stark reminder of territorial power regarding a valuable art collection.
Albert C. Barnes was a Philadelphia-based visionary when it came to collecting the art of post-modern impressionism in the early 20th century. Having made a fortune as a drug manufacturer, Barnes turned to art appreciation and began to collect the works of Renoir, Cézanne, Matisse, Picasso and other impressionism masters, long before they became the most valuable and prized items in the art world.
Barnes preferred not to break up his collection and wanted it displayed in a certain way in his small educational foundation in Montgomery County, Pennsylvania, several miles from the epicenter of the art scene in Philadephia. This began the struggle, as the wealthy in Philadelphia desired the collection, now worth much more than anyone expected, to reside in the art museums there.
Barnes died in a automobile accident in 1951, and left specific legal instructions on how to handle his art collection. So began the titanic conflict between the legal wishes of an art collector versus the benefactors, state government and monetary forces that desire to move the works elsewhere.
This is a tricky story. On one hand you have an owner of an art collection, who has been dead nearly 60 years, and the collection is now worth 25 billion dollars. On the other hand, there are forces that want to possess the collection (state and local), remove it from the Barnes Foundation and place it among the tourist attractions in Philadelphia.
Photo Credit: The Barnes Foundation