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Directed by Don Argott
USA 200
9

 

Dr. Albert C. Barnes accomplished two things for which we must be grateful: He invented a treatment for VD, and he founded the Barnes Foundation in the Philadelphia suburb of Merion. The first paid for the second, so the wages of sin were invested wisely. In his imposing private structure, far from the power brokers of the city, Barnes created an oasis for serious students, who could learn from his collection without rubbing elbows with crowds of art tourists.

How important was the Barnes Collection? I learn from the press notes of "The Art of the Steal" that it included 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses, 46 Picassos, 16 Modiglianis and seven van Goghs. Barnes collected these works during many trips to Paris at a time when establishment museums, such as the Philadelphia Museum of Art, considered these artists beneath their attention. Some of the paintings are today, literally priceless; one estimate of the collection's worth is $25 billion.

That was a lot of art to be sitting in Merion. Barnes knew it was. He designed every detail of his collection with personal care, grouping paintings to reflect and comment on one another, placing period furniture and wall ornaments near them, and filling walls with a richness of paintings close, but not too close, together. He loved his collection, and he hated Philly's Main Line establishment -- particularly, the Museum of Art, which had scorned his collection in its early days.

Excerpt from Roger Ebert at the Chicago Sun-Times located HERE

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Theatrical Release: September 12th, 2009 - Toronto International Film Festival

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DVD Review: MPI - Region 1 - NTSC

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Distribution MPI Video - Region 1 - NTSC
Runtime 1:41:15 
Video 1.33:1 Aspect Ratio
Average Bitrate: 4.29 mb/s
NTSC 720x480 29.97 f/s  

NOTE: The Vertical axis represents the bits transferred per second. The Horizontal is the time in minutes.

Bitrate:

Audio English (Dolby Digital 2.0) 
Subtitles English (SDH), Spanish, None
Features

Release Information:
Studio: MPI

Aspect Ratio:
Original Aspect Ratio 1.78:1

Edition Details:

• Trailer (2:33)
• IFC Previews

DVD Release Date: July 27th, 2010

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Chapters: 17

 

Comments:

As a reviewer, every once in a while you come across a documentary story that really needs to be disseminated. The Barnes Collection came to Toronto around 20-years ago and I was quite ignorant of its significance. Probably more than the catastrophic injustices detailed in the film I was simply fascinated with Dr. Albert Barnes - who surely must be considered the most astute art collector of all time. In the early part of last century - when his contemporaries panned much of his growing collection as 'primitive' - he was un-swayed and continued to personally amass the greatest single grouping of post-impressionist art... in the entire world. The key to that last statement is not the word 'greatest' nor 'post-impressionist' - the significant word here is 'personally'. Yes, this was his collection to do exactly as he pleased. His selected art is superior to that of the Louvre, Moma (Museum of Modern Art in midtown Manhattan) or any gallery or museum on the planet. He used it to start a school - never pandering to the establishment that evolved to manipulate it for its own purposes. That, in itself , is a story worthy to be told. What transpired, specifically against his wishes, is another... and it is immensely discouraging but totally engrossing.  

 

The MPI DVD is anamorphic, progressive and single-layered. The image quality is excellent from the HD-look of much of the content to the vintage clips and stills. It is clean, clear and occasionally very detailed. It supports the documentary extremely well giving a very worthwhile visual presentation.  

Audio is 2.0 channel and the dialogue driven film with interviews and narration is clean and clear. There are optional subtitles and no extras save a trailer and some previews.

I was very keen to see this and enjoyed it so much that I have already revisited it twice. The story is obviously one-sided but I don't know how it could have been told in any other perspective. The participants are intelligent and passionate. It is disturbing to know that this can occur in our modern world but the other elements of education regarding Albert Barnes make the story a valuable one regardless of any bias. I encourage anyone keen to check this out. I expect many will find it as repugnant... and fascinating as I did. Every person who loves art should be made aware of "The Art of the Steal".    

Gary W. Tooze

 



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Distribution MPI Video - Region 1 - NTSC



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