Thursday, December 21, 2006
Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft by Simon Houpt
Thanks to the reviewers at the Cincinnati Public Library who write Turning the Page for recommending Museum of the Missing by Simon Houpt. The review posted by Kate includes a book list recommending five more books on art theft in general and eight specifically about World War II art theft.
According to Simon Houpt, art crime is currently very high as organized criminals are systematically finding every vulnerable residence and institution to rob. In 2004 over twenty thousand art works and artifacts were stolen from over four hundred chateaus and two hundred churches in France. In recent years there have several daring daylight robberies from museums across the globe. Some high profile pieces from Matisse, Monet, Picasso, Chagall, Munch, and Vermeer have yet to be found. Thieves using a crane and a flatbed truck even stole a two-ton bronze sculpture by Henry Moore in 2005; the entire heist was captured on nighttime video surveillance.
In Museum of the Missing Houpt does give us good news, too. International police are working together and restoring many works to their owners. After checking databases, galleries and auction houses are catching many thieves. It is becoming very hard to fence stolen art.
What I like about Museum of the Missing is that Houpt tells many of the stories and includes color photographs of the missing or restored art. I learned about Napoleon gathering art from across Europe and the Middle East, about the 1911 Mona Lisa theft, about Hitler's obsession with paintings, about the thefts at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and National Gallery in Oslo, and about modern techniques of prevention and detection.
The last part of the book is "Gallery of Missing Art." Many of the works have been stolen since the year 2000.
Add this book to your collection and you might help catch a thief.
Houpt, Simon. Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2006. ISBN 1402728298