Leave it to a film review to bring out the most interesting aspect of the Barnes Foundation fight. This Sunday’s New York Times looked at the polemical new documentary, The Art of the Steal from an entirely different angle:
“Barnes’s opinions about art were dogmatic, and the acolytes he attracted were equally and possibly more rigid,” said Maggie Lidz, the estate historian at the Winterthur Museum near Wilmington, Del., another institution whose collection was amassed in the early 20th century.
“Anyone trying to understand the history of the Barnes institution is presented with opposing and irreconcilable viewpoints,” Ms. Lidz added. “Everyone seems to insist that their stance is the only moral one. But the problems that beset the Barnes have never been black and white. Polarization is as much a part of Barnes’s legacy as the paintings.”
Some members of the museum world who have seen the film have also taken sharp issue with many of Mr. Argott’s conclusions and with the style in which they are presented.
“The film obviously had a message that didn’t reflect the complexities of the issues,” said Linda Eaton, director of collections at Winterthur. “Even if you agree with their conclusions, that the Barnes should stay where it is, this work is a polemic that’s structured to get people riled up, to get them excited and angry.”
Requiem for a Jumble of Artworks (New York Times)