Art Heists & Open Lines

Art Heists & Open Lines


HostIan Punnett

GuestsOpen Lines, Anthony M. Amore, Tom Mashberg

In the first hour and a half, Ian was joined by the coauthors of Stealing Rembrandts, security expert and columnist Anthony M. Amore and award-winning investigative reporter Tom Mashberg, for a discussion on art heists. Unlike the image presented in movies of mastermind criminals bypassing sophisticated museum security systems, Amore explained that most art heists are low tech, involving smash-and-grab operations or crooks simply removing paintings from the wall. Mashberg revealed that Rembrandt's works are among the most stolen because everyone knows his name and he was fairly prolific, leaving behind some 800 pieces. one of Rembrandt's paintings (Jacob III de Gheyn) has been stolen and recovered an astonishing four times, Amore said, noting that missing art is sometimes found stored under beds, in the homes of drug runners, and even in barns.

Another famous Rembrandt was taken from the Museum of Fine Arts in Montreal in 1972, in what was one of the largest art heists in history, he continued. According to Amore, art theft often goes underreported because victims do not wish to make their enormous losses public. Stolen paintings are nearly impossible to fence, Mashberg added, pointing out that since there is no secondary market for stolen art a thief's only choice is to ransom it back to the original owner. Sometimes crooks will return the filched goods after they realize there is no way to sell it, Mashberg said. On other occasions, such as the case with a Rembrandt taken from ancestral castle of Sir Edmund Davis, the painting is destroyed so it cannot be traced back to the people who took it, he noted. The two also commented on Nazi confiscation of art and government looting.


During Open Lines, Jamie from California recalled the time he happened upon an authentic Rembrandt etching at a Goodwill store. Jamie said he bought the piece for only one dollar and has since had it appraised for $55,000. Susan phoned in to tell Ian about her brother-in-law, Damien Hirst—the highest paid living artist in the world. Before he became famous for such works as a shark suspended in a tank of formaldehyde, Susan said he made a 6"x6" drawing exclusively for her grandmother. She said Hirst's last major piece, a skull covered in diamonds, sold for $99 million. Carl in Milwaukee shared his experience eating a variety of deep fried foods at a county fair. The batter-encrusted delights included a Snickers bar, Kool-Aid balls, and a stick of butter, which Carl said tasted kind of like a pancake with too much butter on it.


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