Stealing the show A history of art and crime in six thefts

John Barelli

Book - 2019

When he retired as the chief security officer of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, Barelli had spent the better part of forty years responsible not only for one of the richest treasure troves on the planet, but the museum's staff, the millions of visitors, as well as American presidents, royalty, and heads of state from around the world. Here he shares his experiences of the crimes that occurred on his watch, taking readers behind the scenes at the Met. Focusing on six thefts... but filled with countless stories that span the late 1970s through the 21st century, Barelli shows how museum personnel with local and sometimes Federal Agents opened investigations, caught the thief, and (in some cases) recovered the artwork. -- adapted from jacket

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Location Call Number   Status
2nd Floor 364.16287/Barelli Checked In
Guilford, Connecticut : The Lyons Press [2019]
Physical Description
xix, 212 pages : illustrations ; 24 cm
Includes bibliographical references (pages 201-204) and index.
Main Author
John Barelli (author)
Other Authors
Zachary Schisgal (author)
  • Introduction
  • Be my valentine
  • A king's ransom
  • Celtic gold trail and the road to recovery
  • So you want to be an art thief
  • The magic carpet ride
  • Opportunity strikes
  • The art of protecting heads of state
  • A piece of the Met
  • Epilogue.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

Those interested in the nuts and bolts of museum security, including the technological developments of the past 40 years (CCTV, motion detectors, etc.), will welcome this informative, if somewhat plodding, survey from first-time author Barelli, assisted by literary agent Schisgal. A former policeman and lifelong art lover, Barelli arrived at New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art as assistant manager of security in 1978 and rose to become the Met's chief security officer. He also spent time in London with Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad, and interviewed career criminals in his search to discover "who was stealing art, what kind of art, and why." The six thefts he describes are often the work of opportunists, such as a Greek sculpture snatched from its pedestal in 1979. It was subsequently recovered in a storage locker at Grand Central Station after an anonymous tip. In this case, as in others, the action consists of Barelli sitting at his desk and picking up the phone, then musing once again on the opportunities that allow a thief to steal. Among his conclusions is one that readers always suspected: "the line between art admirer and art thief is a thin one." Barelli dwells on his efforts to eliminate the opportunities that would attract a thief in the first place. True crime aficionados seeking tales of derring-do, canny master criminals, and dashing detectives will have to look elsewhere. Agent: Jessica Kastner, Dorf & Nelson. (Sept.)

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