The Art of the Steal, the Pull of the Checkbook


The Art of the Steal gets a lot of attention today in The Inquirer: a piece by me, one by art critic Ed Sozanski, and responses by the Barnes and foes of the move to Center City.

The Washington Post reveals that the film's executive producer offered to pay people to speak in the film. This, as many know, is an ethical no-no.

From the Post story:

"There was some errant e-mail traffic that indicated they were prepared to pay for disgruntled employees to talk," [Pew president Rebecca] Rimel says. Argott says the likely e-mail in question was from Feinberg, the film's executive producer.

"That didn't come from us. That came from Lenny, who was kind of an outsider, who didn't really understand the way documentary works," Argott says. There was never any intention on the filmmaker's part to pay for interviews, he says. Rimel declined to share the e-mail.

No one is saying that anyone who ended up in the film was paid. But "Lenny" is more than an outsider; he's the film's executive producer, the bankroller - a role that typically comes with final say on content. The fact that he was prepared to pay anyone to participate poses a serious credibility problem.

It's a shame. Opponents of the Barnes' move to Center City had a great card to play - a moral authority they could have parlayed into public support for their position.