Unravelling the World of Art Thefts : A Library Program and New Reads

art thefts

Art theft is the stealing of paintings, sculptures, or other forms of visual art from galleries, museums or other public and private locations, and have been common throughout art history. From centuries-old archaeological objects to contemporary masterworks, art heists have involved a range of shadowy figures, from amateurs to security experts to possibly even organized crime syndicates. In some cases, the works have been recovered, while other heists have ended with the works being lost permanently. On June 3 at 7pm, you can enter the underworld of stolen art as we examine the little known stories of some of history’s greatest art heists in our program “How To Steal A Masterpiece” presented by Mallory Mortillaro. This lecture will review some of the most significant art theft in the last century and a half, while also questioning and discussing how the legitimate art market has managed to pique the interest of so many criminals.  Here are some recently published works of fiction and nonfiction featuring art thefts, available with your Livingston Library card, that make for thrilling reads. The Art Thief: A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession by Michael Finkel For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than two hundred heists over nearly ten years-in museums and cathedrals all over Europe-Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend who worked as his lookout, stole more than three hundred objects, until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion. In The Art Thief, Michael Finkel brings us into Breitwieser’s strange and fascinating world. Unlike most thieves, he never stole for money, keeping all his treasures in a single room where he could admire them to his heart’s content. Possessed of a remarkable athleticism and an innate ability to assess practically any security system, Breitwieser managed to pull off a breathtakingly number of audacious thefts. The Borgia Portrait by David Hewson When Arnold Clover is recruited by Lizzie Hawker to help her look into her family inheritance, he cannot begin to guess the journey he is about to embark on. Lizzie’s mother, an Italian countess, disappeared thirty years ago, presumed dead. Her father, a famous, some say infamous, music promoter, has just died and now the family home Ca’ Scacchi, a leaning palazzo in Dorsoduro, has fallen to her. When her mother vanished so too did a priceless painting, supposedly an erotic portrait of Lucrezia Borgia, which has captivated men for generations. When a body is discovered in a hidden crypt beneath the checkerboard courtyard of the palazzo, other secrets are unearthed with it. Lying with the body is a document, a story of an episode in Casanova’s colorful life, and within it a set of clues that might lead to the location of the painting. But it quickly becomes apparent that Lizzie and Arnold are not the only ones interested in finding the painting. The search for the lost Lucrezia quickly becomes a race through the secret history of Venice, one with potentially deadly consequences. The Collector: A Novel by Daniel Silva Legendary art restorer and spy Gabriel Allon joins forces with a brilliant and beautiful master-thief to track down the world’s most valuable missing painting but soon finds himself in a desperate race to prevent an unthinkable conflict between Russia and the West. Silva’s powerhouse novel showcases his outstanding skill and brilliant imagination, destined to be a must-read for both his multitudes of fans and growing legions of converts. The Duke (DVD) Set in 1961 when Kempton Bunton, a 60-year-old taxi driver, stole Goya’s portrait of the Duke of Wellington from the National Gallery in London. It was the first (and remains the only) theft in the Gallery’s history. Kempton sent ransom notes saying that he would return the painting on condition that the government agreed to provide television for free to the elderly. What happened next became the stuff of legend. Only 50 years later did the full story emerge, a startling revelation of how a good man set out to change the world and in so doing saved his son and his marriage to Dorothy Bunton. Fake by Erica Katz Emma Caan is a fake. She’s a forger, an artist who specializes in nineteenth-century paintings. But she isn’t a criminal; her copies are commissioned by museums and ultra-wealthy collectors protecting their investments. Emma’s more than mastered a Gauguin brushstroke and a van Gogh wheat field, but her work is sometimes a painful reminder of the artistic dreams she once chased for herself, when she was younger and before her family and her world fell apart.  When oligarch art collector Leonard Sobetsky unexpectedly appears with an invitation, Emma sees a way out—a new job, a new path for herself, and access to the kind of money she needs to support her unstable and recently widowed mother. But every invitation incurs an obligation . . . and Emma isn’t prepared for what’s to come. As she’s pulled further into Leonard’s opulent scene, she will discover what’s lurking beneath the glitz and glamor. When she does, the past she’s worked hard to overcome will collide with the present, making her wonder how much of her carefully curated life is just as fake as her forgeries. The Last Mona Lisa: A Novel by Jonathan Santlofer An enthralling tale about the 1911 theft of the Mona Lisa from the Louvre, the forgeries that appeared in its wake, and the present-day underbelly of the art world. The Lost Van Gogh : A Novel by Jonathan Santlofer For years, there have been whispers that, before his death, Van Gogh completed a final self-portrait. Curators and art historians have savored this rumor, hoping it could illuminate some of the troubled artist’s many secrets, but even they have to concede that the missing painting is likely lost forever. But when Luke Perrone, artist and great-grandson of the man who