When someone's squarely in the right, and they're the underdog, you hope they go beyond merely winning the argument—you want them to fucking demolish the other guy. This wicked satisfaction is absent from The Art of the Steal—a rich and cluttered manifesto of a movie that's nevertheless worth watching because it is about the labyrinthine, controversial relocation of one of America's most awesome art destinations (you see the problem right in the sentence: relocating a place is impossible).

The Barnes Foundation has 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 7 van Goghs, 6 Seurats, 46 Picassos, and 59 Matisses (including the landmark The Joy of Life), all of which have been tucked into a villa on Latch's Lane in the residential town of Merion, Pennsylvania, since 1924—virtually untouched, arranged just the way Albert Coombs Barnes wanted them.

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Barnes, the self-made son of a butcher, famously detested the art muckety-mucks in nearby Philadelphia (who at first rejected his modernist collection, then droolingly coveted it, along with every other museum in the nation). In his will, he stipulated that the collection could never be loaned, sold, or moved, and for many years after his death in a 1951 car crash, the place was left intact by the people who'd known and loved him. But by the 1980s and '90s, the museum's endowment was bleeding, trustees were floating the idea of selling art, charismatic directors were globe-trotting with the fragile collection in precarious tow, the museum was accusing its neighbors of rampant racism, and billionaires and mayors were making backroom deals that were showing up, mysteriously, on pieces of legislature long before the museum's trustees ever publicly announced any intention to move.

Even if you do not oppose the relocation (which I think you should: Imagine the Isabella Gardner castle in Boston moving), some level of disgust is inevitable if you consider the sketchy way all this was handled. Which is why director Don Argott didn't need to overstate his case. This is "the greatest act of cultural vandalism since World War II," the movie booms. The Philip Glass music broods. The art, with all its nuance, fades into the background. recommended