A museum security director and a journalist combine to educate the masses about the realities of art theft, with an emphasis on the paintings of Rembrandt.
Amore is employed at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, which has been victimized by thieves pulling off high-profile heists. Mashberg is a Boston Herald reporter who immersed himself in the Gardner thefts, hoping to solve the most notorious of those, which occurred in 1990. The authors smash myth after myth, many of them the result of unrealistic movies of the James Bond variety. For instance, they demonstrate that a high percentage of art thieves—whether stealing from museums or private homes—are not sophisticated about technology or about the paintings themselves. In fact, many are common house burglars who seek new criminal challenges and who believe, often mistakenly, that stealing works of art assessed at high prices will lead to riches. They frequently fail to reckon with the reality that art masterpieces are difficult to fence because they stick out in underground markets. The bulk of the text consists of case studies from private residential collections and from public galleries in Stockholm, Cincinnati, Boston and Worcester, Mass. The studies sometimes feel like filler in an already slim book, partly because the heists occurred so many decades ago. The narrative is generally stronger when the authors convey insights from thieves who discuss their mindsets, and when the text focuses on why educated museum staff members can be duped so easily. The background about Rembrandt, why his art has become so sought-after and how thieves have disposed of his masterpieces constitutes a book within the book, backed by original research.
An interesting mish-mash of everything related to the thievery of valuable art.