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Arty Farty Friday: The Art of the Steal

During the summer I spent a lot of time learning more about art.

Apart from reading and watching stuff connected to artists and their works, I also delve into the functioning of the art work, museums, forgery and such.

One of the patterns you see repeated is how museums will do anything to get their hands on a valuable collection.

An owner works sought after by museums promise to keep the collection together, never sell off individual pieces, to display them together in their own separate wing etc.

The museum holds up their part of the bargain… till a better collection comes their way, but by then no one really cares about the benefactors wishes and all contracts and promises are broken.

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I encourage you to check out Rogues’ Gallery: The Secret Story of the Lust, Lies, Greed, and Betrayals That Made the Metropolitan Museum of Art written by Michael Gross.

It’s a fascinating read about how one of the most influential museums was founded, but also takes a peek behind the glamour to reveal secrets that I bet the MET would want kept in the shadows.

Gross sums up what he learned when he was researching and writing about the MET:

“Behind almost every painting is a fortune and behind that a sin or a crime.”

Before you start thinking that only the MET has shady practises, think again.

The 2009 documentary The Art of the Steal follows the story of  The Barnes Foundation, a $25-billion collection(conservative estimate) of mostly Modernist and post-Impressionist artworks.

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It is the most valuable collection of art from the period ever to be accumulated by one man and includes 181 Renoirs, 69 Cézannes, 60 Matisses, 44 Picassos, and 14 Modiglianis.

The collection, created by Dr Albert C. Barnes, operated its gallery in a residential neighbourhood with restrictions on access, in Merion, Pennsylvania, a suburb of Philadelphia.

The main aim of The Barnes Foundation was to be a school for artists and the artwork was supposed to inspire students and serve as teaching tools.

Barnes loathed the establishment at the time and was adamant that his art collection would never be taken over by Philadelphia’s art museums.

As long as Barnes was alive, the foundation could function in the capacity he had intended, but on his death there was a  mad dash to acquire the collection by any means necessary.

Dr Barnes was so adamant that the art establishment wouldn’t get their hands on his beloved art works that he drew up a seemingly iron-clad will that would protect the foundation.

What happens next defies belief and is a painful reminder that where there’s a will (in this case Dr Barnes’ last will and testament), there’s nevertheless a way to break it with just enough money, power and politics.

This story is particularly painful because the theft of paintings from the Barnes Foundation happened in broad daylight and was engineered by the powers that be.

This documentary is a must-see!

The YT link is inactive but you can watch it on Vimeo HERE

Arty Farty Friday: Exit Through the Gift Shop

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I think I’ve already mentioned my love for Banksy, the notorious graffiti artist, political activist, film director, and painter.

He’s also published a few books which featured photos of his graffiti work as well as a hilarious commentary on art, life and politics.

He also shares anecdotes about how the works were created.

Nothing is known of his identity, however he has become the symbol of street art, his art works are a political and social commentary and have been featured on streets, walls, and bridges of cities throughout the world.

He is one prolific artist, and a cheeky bugger to boot!

One of his most daring stunts was to graffiti Israel’s 425-mile-long West Bank barrier, separating Israel from the Palestinian territories.

The images are thought-provoking and I urge you to google them.

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Banksy has made some interesting statements regarding museum, galleries and the art work in general.

Although they are meant to be places for the common folk, the decision about what gets to hang on the walls, therefore what is deemed high art, is made by a chosen few.

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Apart from that, only a percentage of the public actually go to museums, therefore the access to art is limited.

That’s one of the reasons I’m so fond of street art.

It enriches the cities, with walls serving as a platform, a canvas to express ideas to the passers-by and Banksy is the loudest and most recognisable voice among graffiti artists.

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Banksy backed up his statements regarding museums  when he pulled his infamous museum prank.

He would go disguised to places like The Tate or The British Museum and hang up his own work among the exhibits.

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He pulled the same prank in New York museums—the Metropolitan Museum, MoMA, the American Museum of Natural History, and the Brooklyn Museum.

Less said about museum security, the better…

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Some of Banksy’s pieces were removed a few hours later, other lingered for weeks, other still were added to the museum collection as a valuable piece.

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I could go on about how important and revolutionary Banksy’s approach to art is, but this post is really about his 2010 documentary Exit Though The Gift Shop.

The project started out as a bunch of footage of street artists taken by an amateur filmmaker Thierry Guetta who managed to document this elusive and short-lived art form.

What the film ended up being is a head scratching account of how the art world will embrace, and spend a fortune on, anything that is deemed the next best thing.

The documentary is hilarious and you will fall for the array of mad characters.

I can’t help thinking that perhaps this documentary is one of the greatest pranks the elusive Banksy has even played.

You’ll see what I mean when you give it a try 🙂

Even if neither graffiti or art is your thing, this is perhaps one of the most interesting and entertaining documentaries you’ll ever see.

And here’s a funny little thing I made as homage to Mister Brainwash, Magzy really liked it, so this ones for her 😉

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