The Underworld of Art

Read FeedShaw/Watha T. Daniel Library

The Underworld of Art

Books That Take You Into the Secret World of Criminals, Con Artists and International Detectives

Did you hear news of the recent price a painting by Jean-Michel Basquiat sold for at auction? Reaching a record for a painting by an American artist, the final sale price was for more than $110 million dollars. The incredible value of art makes it the frequent target of criminals and scam-artists. While there are hundreds of books devoted to the life of famous artists and art history, here are some books in the DC Public Library's general collection about art’s underworld.

The Rescue Artist: A True Story of Art, Thieves, and the Hunt for a Missing Masterpiece
By: Edward Dolnick

During the opening ceremonies for the 1994 Winter Olympics in Lillehammer, Norway, two thieves broke through a second-floor window of the National Art Museum and stole Edvard Munch’s famous "The Scream." This book tells the true story of a Scotland Yard art detective, Charley Hill, going to great lengths and adventures pursuing and recovering the painting safely.

The Gardner Heist: A True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft
By: Ulrich Boser.

The author emerges himself in the detective process by following the trail and searching the files of a recently deceased art insurer for any unfollowed clue. A fast read for anyone interested in learning the basic facts and intrigue around one of the most high-profile and well-known cases of art theft in history.

Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists
By: Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg

Art theft is one of the most profitable criminal enterprises in the world, exceeding $6 billion dollars in losses to galleries and art collectors annually. In Stealing Rembrandts, authors Anthony M. Amore and Tom Mashberg reveal the actors behind the major art heists of the Dutch Master in the last century.

The Art of The Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World
By: Anthony M. Amore

The Art of the Con tells the stories of some of history's most notorious yet untold art swindlers. They involve stolen art hidden for decades; elaborate ruses that involve the Nazis and allegedly plundered art; the theft of a conceptual prototype from a well-known artist by his assistant to be used later to create copies; the use of online and television auction sites to scam buyers out of millions; and other confidence scams incredible not only for their boldness but more so because they actually worked.

Priceless: How I went Undercover to rescue the World's Stolen Treasures
By: Robert K. Wittman with John Shiffman.

Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI's Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career, offering a real-life international thriller. The son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year career going undercover, usually unarmed, to catch art thieves, scammers, and black market traders in Paris and Philadelphia, Rio and Santa Fe, Miami and Madrid. Wittman tells the stories behind his recoveries of priceless art and antiquities.

Vanished Smile: The Mysterious Theft of the Mona Lisa
By: R. A. Scotti

Part love story, part mystery, this book reopens the case of the most audacious and perplexing art theft ever committed -- the theft of Leonardo da Vinci's "Mona Lisa" from the Paris Louvre on August 21, 1911 by an Italian Nationalist. Stashed away in a trunk in his apartment for two years, the thief took the painting to Italy where it was seized by government officials who in an act of diplomacy returned the painting to French officials.

Provenance: How a Con Man and a Forger Rewrote the History of Modern Art
By: Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo

Filled with lively and underworld characters and told with speed, Provenance is the astonishing narrative of one of the most far-reaching and elaborate cons in the history of art forgery. Stretching from London to Paris to New York, investigative reporters Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo recount the tale of infamous con man and unforgettable villain John Drewe and his accomplice, the affable artist John Myatt. Together they exploited the archives of British art institutions to irrevocably legitimize the hundreds of pieces they forged, many of which are still considered genuine and hang in prominent museums and private collections today.

Master Thieves: The Boston Gangsters who pulled off the World's Greatest Art Heist
By: Stephen Kurkjian

A definitive account of the Boston criminal underworld's role in the infamous $500 million Gardner Museum art theft traces the contributions of master thief Louis Royce and gangster Ralph Rossetti while examining the FBI's controversial announcement that they had identified the responsible parties.