Hot Art: Chasing Thieves and Detectives Through the Secret World of Stolen Art
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Sweeping and fast-paced, Hot Art is a major work of investigative journalism and a thrilling joyride into a mysterious criminal world.
Hot Art traces Joshua Knelman’s five-year immersion in the shadowy world of art theft, where he uncovers a devious game that takes him from Egypt to Los Angeles, New York to London, and back again, through a web of deceit, violence, and corruption. With a cool, knowing eye, Knelman delves into the lives of professionals such as Paul, a brilliant working-class kid who charmed his way into a thriving career organizing art thefts and running loot across the United Kingdom and beyond, and LAPD detective Donald Hrycyk, one of the few special investigators worldwide who struggle to keep pace with the evolving industry of stolen art. As he becomes more and more immersed in this world, Knelman learns that art theft is no fringe activity―it has evolved into one of the largest black markets in the world, which even Interpol and the FBI admit they cannot contain. In this battle, the thieves are winning. Sweeping and fast-paced, Hot Art is a major work of investigative journalism and a thrilling joyride into a mysterious criminal world.
imports and exports. There were all these layers and levels,” Czegledi said. By 2003, she was teaching a course in international art law at the University of Lyon’s Faculty of Law. This was around when we met in Toronto’s financial district and she barraged me with information. She’d been storing it up. After our meeting, as promised, my notebook was full, and that evening, when I turned on my television, art theft was the news. Images from the looting of the National Museum of Iraq flashed
and that’s turbo. What you see is what you get. No bells and whistles. The blog is about what’s happening, and what I’m thinking. I’m a loose cannon, and no one knows what I’m going to do next,” he told me. “It would have been much nicer to get a PhD. Instead, I got a PhD in knocking. I have no regrets in that respect. With hindsight, we’d all have bought Microsoft shares for two dollars instead of three hundred dollars, right?” During our many phone conversations, I never did find out how Paul
lounge he caught sight of another British detective he had met, a Detective Inspector Sibley, but he pretended not to recognize him in case Müller was watching. Waterfield skipped the free bus ride and hailed a taxi. The taxi driver scolded him for not taking the free bus. The Hilton lobby was anonymous, comfortable, and not large. At reception Waterfield asked for Mr. Müller. The receptionist paged the German, but there was no sign of anyone. Maybe it was all a hoax? Waterfield started to
who is four hundred years old?” he asked. “Cultural property is permanent. We are fleeting.” A few months later a small retirement ceremony was held in a Philadelphia banquet hall to celebrate Wittman’s career. When I asked Wittman if he had trained a successor, his answer came swiftly, “No.” He did, however, help spawn a new federal initiative: the FBI Art Crime Team, and there were now a dozen agents across the United States learning the basic techniques of art theft investigation. The
upstairs, to the second floor, where he and Talbot shared a space with the fraud squad—a bull pen. Lacoursière pointed to a painting by John Little that had been stolen in 1989 and recovered in 2007. It was worth about $25,000. Beside his desk was another painting that looked very much like a Riopelle—a beautiful fake he had confiscated. Next we went down to the cafeteria, where Lacoursière and Talbot settled on a table near the back, facing a large window with sunlight streaming in. I asked the