For director Don Argott and producers Sheena Joyce and Lenny Feinberg, making THE ART OF THE STEAL about the fight over the Barnes collection of early modern art was a labor of love. The resulting film plays like a political thriller. During the course of our conversation on February 15, 2010, each spoke about what made the collection unique, as well as discussing filmmaking on the fly with Julian Bond, and, most pointedly, why the whole story of the personalities and machinations involved was not covered in the mainstream media.
THE ART OF THE STEAL is their documentary about the struggle for control of the Barnes Collection, a holding that boasts more Cézannes than the city of Paris and that is, unquestionably, one of the most important collections of Impressionist , post-Impressionist and early modern art to have been held in private hands. It was the intention of the collector, Albert C. Barnes, that the collection remain intact , be used for educational purposes rather than merely for exhibition, and displayed in the way he intended, and when he died, he gave control of it to Lincoln University, an African-American university. It was a move that combined his enlightened views on race relations with his contempt for the art establishment and their motive. More than the history of the collection, including its initial dismissal by art critics of the time, more than just the legal battles and personality quirks of the parties involved, it becomes a consideration of what the value of art truly is and for whom.