Book Reviews: The Gardner Heist and The Art Thief
Candida Höfer, Libraries
Until I read The Gardner Heist by Ulrich Boser, I did not know how easy it was to walk into a well known museum and simply lift rare and expensive art right off the walls. This is exactly what happened one early morning on March 18, 1990 in Boston, when two thieves entered the famous Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and ripped off a Vermeer (only 35 left), three Rembrandts and five Degas, pulling off the biggest and most expensive heist in the world of art. The Gardner Heist is the intriguing story of this theft, and the dedicated people who worked 24-7 to recover the irreplaceable art.
This book is a real whodunit with the page-turning intensity of a best-selling fiction novel. Obsessed art detective, Harold Smith, worked on the case for years, traveling to large cities around the world, in search of the unsavory and dangerous characters who had links to this expensive caper. After he died, Ulrich Boser took up the quest which resulted in his book. Both men worked tirelessly to recover the five hundred million dollar art pieces, not for the money, they said, but because of the loss to the general public of these one-of-a-kind masterpieces. The biggest concern for them was, not nabbing the whodunits, but recovering the art for all to enjoy once again.
You’ll have to read the book to find out if the art was recovered. And if you happen to own any rare art, you just might want to be sure that it is well protected!
Along with the Boser novel, I read The Art Thief by Noah Charney….a wonderful and readable fiction account based on the world of stolen art. In The Art Thief, three art heists are investigated in three different European cities; Rome, Paris and London, all having more in common than the reader could imagine. This book is filled with art history details, intriguing adventures, unique and sometimes hilarious characters told in a sophisticated, smart literary voice that readers will love. The author takes you through an array of auction houses, museums and galleries with fascinating details of each. Charney is the founding director of the Association for Research into Crimes against Art (ARCA) and knows his stuff. That he presents it in such a literary, smart and readable way makes this book a must-read for all art lovers.
Gretta Barclay works part-time teaching ESL and tutoring writing at Heartland Community College in Normal, IL. Her blog is This Writer’s Life.