Film examines battle over prize US art collection

Reuters April 10, 2010

LONDON: That a bitter battle broke out over the Barnes collection full of paintings by Renoir, Picasso and Van Gogh is hardly surprising. Up to $25 billion worth of rare works of art was at stake.

A new documentary tells the story of a legal tussle for control of the huge collection, which ended in a head-to-head between those who wanted it to stay in its original home in a small Pennsylvania suburb and those who lobbied for its transfer to downtown Philadelphia.

The latter group won, and one of the world's greatest impressionist and post-impressionist art collections boasting 181 Renoirs, 69 Cezannes, 59 Matisses 46 Picassos among others, is expected to move from the former estate of its founder Albert Barnes to a newly built home in 2012.

But the makers of "The Art of the Steal" clearly sided with the losers in an impassioned, if partisan criticism of what they and contributors described as "cultural vandalism", "a circus" and "a big, big scandal".

"All they're talking about is the dollar signs -- they're not talking about Renoir and Picasso in any kind of deep way," said director Don Argott, picking up on a theme that runs throughout the film.


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