Saturday, August 26, 2023

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel

The Art Thief by Michael Finkel is a solid work of nonfiction subtitled A True Story of Love, Crime, and a Dangerous Obsession. Finkel tells the story of Stéphane Breitwieser, who carried out more than 200 art heists across Europe over a 10-year-period. He stole, usually with the help of his girlfriend, Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, more than three hundred works of art, worth an estimated $2B. 

Singular in the world of art thieves, Breitwieser stole not to then sell the pieces, but rather to just keep and look at them. He displayed the work where he lived with Kleinklaus, in the attic of his mother's house. 

It is interesting reading of the audaciousness of many of the heists and Breitwieser's self-professed love of art is at first somewhat endearing, but his view of himself as a liberator of art is impossible to reconcile with what eventually happens to the pieces. It felt inevitable that things would end poorly, regardless of whether Breitwieser expected or intended them to, making him come across less as sympathetic and more as someone who caused great harm.