Albert Barnes was an extremely ardent art collector who, after amassing a fortune through the dispensation of VD drugs, amassed a mind bogglingly massive collection of Early Modern and Post-Impressionist art — arguably the finest collection in the world — and created the Barnes Foundation in 1922. Just less than five miles outside of Philly (a city whose art elite Barnes was filled with disdain for), he placed his "earth-shakingly important" art collection in a place that was the antithesis of an antiseptic tourist art museum, carefully making sure in his detailed will that this was a situation that was never to change after his eventual demise. Then die he did. And as the art vultures started circling, it was only a matter of time before Barnes' will was systematically undermined and the purity of his Foundation steadily tainted.
This is a truly fascinating story — referred to by one of the doc's talking heads as "the scandal of the art world in modern America" — and it is excitingly told, though the farther the story gets from the days in which Barnes was alive, the more the saga gets mired in slightly less engaging political actions that bog the story down a bit. Just a bit. Barnes himself is just so terribly interesting, and the film slightly less so in his absence. | RDW