Art theft is not unique to times of war, and can occur at any time from museums, cultural institutions, archaeological sites, and private residences for a variety of reasons. The former head of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, Robert Wittman, states that art theft is tolerated “because it is considered a victimless crime.” As the following resources reveal, art theft impacts more than a single owner and is costly both in terms of monetary value and cultural identity :
Book: Houpt, Simon. The Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft. New York: Sterling Publishing, 2006.
This book from the senior media editor of The Globe and Mail newspaper provides a brief overview of art theft- from war time plunder to museum heists, with an emphasis on the modern era. Also discusses recovery efforts and security measures to prevent theft.
Book: Amore, Anthony and Tom Mashberg. Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists. New York: Palgrave MacMillan, 2011.
This book discusses art theft specifically in the context of museums. Anthony Amore is the Director of Security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, and victim of one of the most notorious unsolved art thefts in the United States.
Book: Wittman, Robert. Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures. New York, Crown Publishers, 2010.
This memoir was written by one of the founders and former director of the FBI Art Crime Team, Robert Wittman, and describes his experiences investigating art theft and attempting to recovery stolen property.
The FBI Art Crime Team was established in 2004 to investigate art and cultural property crime cases in the United States, and assist Interpol with related crimes committed overseas. The website includes a searchable database of reported art thefts, and a form for victims to report stolen property.
Book: Atwood, Roger. Stealing History: Tomb Raiders, Smugglers, and the Looting of the Ancient World. New York: St. Martin’s Griffin, 2006.
Journalist and antiquities expert Robert Atwood examines the issue of art theft from the thieves’ perspective. He describes observing Peruvian grave robbers looting an undocumented archaeological site, the demand for such goods by museums and collectors, and the Moche grave goods scandal of 1997 that exposed illicit operations in the global antiquities market.