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Will the filmmakers behind The Art of the Steal steal away to Canada?

Part art lesson, part expose, The Art of the Steal explores a conspiracy by the city of Philadelphia and numerous charitable organizations to capture (and relocate) the Barnes art collection. Assembled by Dr. Albert Barnes in the 1920s, the private collection includes paintings by Renoir, Cezanne and Picasso, and is estimated to be worth $25 million to $30 billion.

Barnes housed his jaw-dropping collection in Merion, Penn., and refused to loan the paintings to other institutions. When he died in 1951, the art fell into dubious hands, and a portion of the collection began to tour as an exhibit. In the 1990s, a group of eager Philadelphians conspired to move the art from Merion, in the interests of freeing it for public consumption.

In making the documentary, director Don Argott made a lot of powerful enemies in the city of the Liberty Bell. At the Q&A following the premiere public screening at TIFF, Argott jokingly wondered if Toronto could offer the filmmakers artistic asylum. One audience member suggested Argott's next project could be an investigation into the disappearance of Canada's National Portrait Gallery.

The Art of the Steal was well received by the crowd, especially one Philly resident. Johnny McDonald traveled to TIFF to see the film, and said he was sickened that he could have been so blind about what really happened to the Barnes collection. McDonald said many Philadelphians believe moving the Barnes to the city's downtown core was a way to help preserve the Barnes and he'll be spreading the word when he returns.

-- Eli Glasner

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Toronto Film Festival Blog 2009 »



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The 2009 Toronto International Film Festival runs Sept. 10-19. Over the course of the festival, CBCNews.ca is keeping a blog, which houses all manner of TIFF-related intelligence, from quirky movie events to celebrity sightings to how the annual event transforms the city of Toronto.

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Thursday, September 17, 2009
TIFF: Day 8 lookahead
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Indiewire’s TIFF critics poll
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