Thursday, July 7, 2011

The Rescue Artist

Hey! We're back to one of my favorite topics, art crime!

I really liked this book as I was reading it but then I found that I forgot about it once I was done. Not sure what to make of that. Is it the summer heat weighing on my brain or was the book just not memorable enough?

The Rescue Artist traces the efforts of Charley Hill, a member of Scotland Yard's Art Squad, in his attempts to recover the famous Edvard Munch painting, The Scream. In the truth is stranger than fiction department, nothing beats this theft. You watch movies about art crime and the thieves go through all sorts of rigamarole to swipe their object of beauty. Defeating sensors, cutting through floors or going through skylights, technological gadgetry out the wazoo to pull off the heist. It is hard work. Want to know how The Scream was stolen.

A couple guys went over to a construction site and grabbed a ladder. They brought it over to the museum (Norway's National Gallery). They climbed up to the second floor (falling off the ladder the first time), broke a window with a hammer, reached in and pulled the painting off the wall.

They were in the museum a total of fifty seconds and made off with a painting valued at over $70 million. That's an hourly pay rate of over $5 billion an hour.

The book proceeds from there to trace Hill's efforts in recovering the painting, sidetracking here and there to look at some of the other art crimes he has been a part of solving. One might wonder how Scotland Yard gets involved in a crime that took place in Norway. The answer is that Hill wanted to be involved. Hill is a forceful individual who sort of found his way into the world of art crime after a number of false starts in life. He's an interesting fellow and his story is really the focus of the book. That being said, there is some background on why art thefts take place, who profits from them, and why, given that these paintings are supposedly so valuable, security measures are pretty awful.

Definitely a good book on art crime. Some better writing might have made it more memorable but it is certainly done well enough for me to recommend it.

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