‘The Art of the Steal’ Is, Disappointingly, Not About Theft In The Way Ocean’s 11, 12, Or Even 13 Are.

But I watched the aforementioned documentary last night, about the ‘private’ art collection of Dr. Albert Barnes, and the status of the terms of his will today and how they’re being manipulated by Philadelphia politicians for monetary gain (duh), and it was pretty good. Long. It was too long. I mean, only an hour and forty minutes, but there was realistically only about thirty minutes of actual plot in there. The story itself, however, was great, and slightly infuriating, all the while still reminding me that extremism is sort of jacked, and that very rarely is someone on the extreme left or right of an argument going to be correct (I’m guilty of this on two counts, but I am actually correct, so.  . .). Especially about art which, I don’t care what anybody says, is subjective.

But really you do feel sad for the memory of Barnes, because he had the right idea, and was a pretty rad old dude. Collecting shit-loads of amazing art and housing it privately, and then using that as an educational tool for worthy students and truly interested individuals who are maybe not financially/economically able to view/study incredible art collections in museums or universities, instead of allowing the socialite-Philly-scene to pay an admission for a cursory glance that succeeds in making them feel more worldly and does no justice to the actual pieces, despite pressure from the city government and local museums, and then leaving the collection in your will to a prominently black university so that it will continue to be used for educational purposes and also in order to thumb your nose at the racist tools that have been haranguing you in 1922 is fuckin’ cool. +1 Barnes.

The best part, though, is when one of the seemingly reputable interviewees, a lawyer and student of the Barnes’ Foundation, who was in defense of the true and original stipulations of Barnes’ will, yells Philistines! mid-interview at the attendees of the elite pre-collection viewing dinner/gathering/circlejerk, or whatever, while holding a hand-painted protest poster directly above his head like someone taped it to a scarecrow. The earnestness is precious, despite the fact that I don’t think 16 people standing outside of an event or street-corner with catchily-phrased sheets of cardstock will ever accomplish anything. Like, work that shit from the inside, people! One of you sane lawyer-types get in there and stir shit up.

Also, there is one section of the documentary where they interview some of the residents of the neighborhood around where Barnes housed his collection about the period of upheaval when the exhibition was briefly open for public viewing, and they couldn’t get in or out of their bourgeoisie Merion townhomes due to the insane amounts of traffic and buses of tourists being delivered on the hour, and. . .just. . .the drapery. . .in the background of some of those interviews is. . .astounding. And inspiring? I can’t even talk about it.


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