Not to beat a dead deaccessioning horse. But Christopher Knight raises again the issue of the Barnes Foundation move on the occasion of the premiere at the Toronto Film Festival of “The Art of the Steal,” a documentary on the case. At the risk of seeming to promote one side of the Barnes issue or another, there remains a fundamental conflict between the emphasis on art as being held in the public trust and honoring donor intent.
A cinematic primer on how to seize control of billions of dollars worth of post-Impressionist and early Modern art all for a modest investment of $150 million has its world premiere Saturday at the Toronto International Film Festival.
The much-anticipated documentary “The Art of the Steal: The Untold Story of the Barnes Foundation” looks at the shrewdly engineered takeover of arguably the nation’s greatest early 20th century cultural monument. Dubbed by critics a “legal theft,” the disastrous plan is to dismantle the Barnes and move it from its historic home in suburban Philadelphia to a tourist location close to downtown.
Indeed the condescending tone of “tourist location” does not sit comfortably next to the concept of pubic trust (even if the Barnes Foundation is not/was not a public institution.) But then again, maybe we’re just being argumentative. Don Argott, the movie’s director, explains that the Barnes did not make much of an effort to explain their side of the story.
Barnes Foundation Documentary to Debut at Toronto Film Festival (Los Angeles Times)