The Best Art Documentary of 2010
For anyone who loves the arts and culture, Don Argott’s documentary The Art of the Steal is a true treat—a scandal of epic proportions within the high-priced world of fine art. The backstory: In 1922, Dr. Albert C. Barnes created the Barnes Foundation outside of Philadelphia in order to house his tremendous art collection, which included Cezannes, Picassos, and other masterpieces now valued at $25 blllion. At the time, Dr. Barnes was reclusive, keeping his collection private and away from the public, and specifying in his will that the works were never to be sold or moved from the Foundation (which he ceded control of to small African-American college Lincoln University). Unfortunately, he passed away suddenly in a car accident, and decades later, Philadelphia city officials went to court to bring the collection to museums, where Barnes never wanted it. When is art ever safe? And should a dying man’s will be heeded when billions of dollars of art’s greatest unseen works are at stake? The Art of the Steal makes a compelling case.
John Lithgow’s New Killer Broadway Role
Douglas Carter Beane’s plays ( As Bees in Honey Drown, The Little Dog Laughed) crackle with wit and fiery language, and his latest, Mr. and Mrs. Fitch, is no exception. Now playing at New York’s Second Stage Theater and starring John Lithgow and Jennifer Ehle, the play follows a married pair of aging, acid-tongued gossip columnists who are losing ground in the modern world of Web smut. In order to stay relevant in a world the bloggers, the two must get devious, competitive, and crazy. It’s a joy to watch. Tickets and more information can be found here.
The Whitney Biennial: Small and Improved
For culture-philes, the Olympic-worthy event to watch is the Whitney Biennial, America’s most prestigious survey of contemporary art. Unlike past biennials, the 2010 exhibit (which began began February 25 and runs through May 30) does not follow a specific theme. Instead, veteran curator Francesco Bonami and his co-curator (the remarkably young Gary Carrion-Murayari, who is only 29), decided to present a straightforward overview of the modern art scene. After two years of searching, the curators chose a smaller lineup of artists than past years (being included can often be considered “making it”), and some interesting names include dark room “photogram”-maker Josh Brand, feminist installation artist Kate Gilmore, and the mysterious prankster art collective that goes only by the Bruce High Quality Foundation. For more on the Biennial, see Rachel Wolff’s review on Art Beast.