All Things Considered uses the Art of the Steal documentary to explore the idea of conspiracy to move the Barnes. It’s funny to hear the way the argument is framed. Clearly Philadelphia’s civic boosters had a strong interest in moving the Barnes. That could easily be framed as a conspiracy; it could also be seen as small city trying to make the most of its assets.
Here lies the most interesting aspect of the Barnes controversy. Let’s let the movie’s producer raise the point:
“It’s not our story, it’s his story,” Joyce says. “He left an indenture of trust. And that was the blueprint. It was important to bring him to life and tell the story as he would want it told.”
Many of the outraged opponents of the Barnes move point to his wishes. Call it donor intent. Any sensible construction of the idea of art as a public trust–I’m not advancing the idea just trying to limn it–should find Barnes’s dictatorial constraints over the art long after his own death and enjoyment of it to be in conflict with the interests of the public .
Barnes had particular views but because of the dead hand of his property rights those views are immutable. No scholarship, no evolution in art history or cultural history can change that. Something doesn’t seem right about that.
‘Art Of The Steal’: Actual Heist Or Conspiracy Theory? (All Things Considered/NPR)