The narrative opens with a mysterious meeting in Toronto, and then continues to explain how totally unregulated, and uncontrolled art world works. It starts with “innocent” looking people knocking on doors and asking whether the owners wants to sell paintings or antiques that he/she may possess.
This is especially the case in England, particularly in rural area or small cities favoured by retired people. These individuals inherit art, and generally don’t understand the value of paintings and/or antiques.
Once the “knocker” either arranges to buy (at a ridiculously low price), or completes his reconnaissance, he leaves. Sometime later, thieves break into the home and steal the painting or several. The “hot art’ is then immediately or as soon as possible sold to an art dealer or some “reputable” individual to auction it.
The author accomplished a thorough investigation over several years and it shows.
He met art detectives in Los Angeles, then connected with Paul, an Englishman, reputed to be the best of the best of all art thieves. Followed that, he connects with lawyers often acting as middlemen between thieves and art dealers, or as advisors to museum curators.
He also explains how the Interpol headquartered in Lyon, France, created an international list of famous paintings that occasionally helps track down stolen artwork.
He met with the head of FBI’s art fraud and discovered that agents in major “ art capitals” e.g. New York, Los Angeles, Chicago, Zurich, work with local law enforcement to unearth dishonest dealers and thieves.
The author reveals that Scotland Yard and Sussex police created special squads to combat art fraud.
According to hearsay, the “art industry” turn over $ 6 – 8 billion world wide, but this figure cannot be relied on, as millions change hands between buyers and auction houses that actually help launder stolen paintings.
This book represents excellent investigative, dogged, fearless, thrillingly thorough reporting.
There are fascinating characters, great stories about stolen and laundered art, and how art dealers and auction houses help the laundering process unwittingly or otherwise.
A stolen painting may be bought by a dealer for $ 1000.00 and sold for ten times as much. The next time around the price may double, as most collectors have little or no idea what they are buying.
We learn from the narrative that art theft is one of the largest underground markets in the world.
This book is persuasive, fast-paced, engrossing, fascinating and griping.
It is a page-turner and everyone, even those remotely interested in art, should read, study, and analyse it, and from time to time refer to it to understand how white-collar crime works.