Friday, March 9, 2012

Crash Course in Art Crime

This week I finished reading The Art of the Heist, Confessions of a Master Thief.  In this book Myles Connor Jr, a real Masshole, explains his long career as art collector and art thief (from the MFA, MET, Children's Museum, and Smithsonian among others).  He also describes his life as a bank robber, drug dealer, and inmate of numerous county, state and federal prisons in New England, and eventually across the U.S.  Needless to say I developed a crushlette on the guy who is now in his late 60's, out of prison, and living in MA somewhere.

Myles spent time at Charles Street Jail, which he recalls as being "in a state of putrid decay, the first floor perpetually covered in several inches of standing water, the upper floors infested by giant rats and waterbugs the size of a man's fist... In fact the place was so squalid that the United States Supreme Court eventually ruled imprisonment there to be a violation of a person's basic civil rights."

Now the jail is the luxurious Liberty Hotel. Beth Greenfield reviewed her stay in the hotel for the NYT in 2007, and described her room as "cozy yet airy, with exposed-brick walls and floor-to-ceiling windows that offered river and city views.  The modern furnishings included an off-white divan, black lacquered desk and dresser and an earth merino throw at the foot of the plush white bed."

Greenfield's experience of the place was as cushy as mine. I shot a gorgeous 50th Birthday Party on the 3rd floor rotunda and also attended a screening of a movie in the hotel's outdoor courtyard last summer... the space holds a whole new meaning now after reading Myles Connor's memoir.

...But I digress.... 

I was so disappointed to have finished The Art of the Heist, that I quickly picked up Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures.  The author is Robert Wittman, founder of the FBI Art Crime Team.  

I am only 40 pages into this book and have lined up the third book in my Art Crime crash course already... Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiques at the World's Richest Museum.  This book captures the countless stories of illegally traded and looted antiquities brought from other countries to the beloved museums of The United States.  

So I'm going into the minds of the criminals, the agents, the curators, the investigators, the art scholars ... probably only to learn, once again, that we are all the same.