Monday, June 7, 2010

In yesterday's NY Times Sunday magazine there was an intriguing article discussing an art theft blog - did you see it? It's run by a fellow who goes by the name Turbo Paul. As Virginia Heffernan reports, he is "a self-described former dealer in stolen antiques" but now is on the other side, digging and blogging to track down and help recover stolen art.

One of his blogs, Stolen Vermeer, is devoted exclusively to reporting on the two decades-old investigation into the recovery of works stolen in 1990 from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. The other blog, Art Hostage, tracks a number of art thefts worldwide.

This passage from Heffernan's article provides a feel for the insider nature of Turbo Paul's blogging:

. . . Turbo Paul knows everything about cops and robbers -- or seems to. Sure enough, by May 22, he was proposing what the Paris heist (of May 20th) meant; who was sending signals to whom; who was humiliated by the heist and who had the last laugh. He said his blog was besieged by visitors with prestigious IP addresses, and when I asked, he passed on the routing information of his readers: Justice Department, State Department and F.B.I." (p. 20)

It dawned on me that maybe we should hire this guy to start looking for Osama Bin Laden. . .or figure out how Lance Armstrong is getting away with doping, or exactly what happened with the Gores.

Above left is one of the stolen paintings, Woman with a Fan (1919) by Modigliani. (I was not familiar with that painting; the shapes seem to work together so well, with the rectangle in the top left balancing beautifully against the shape of her ear and the tip of the fan.) I think you will find these blogs pretty entertaining. No attempt to be politic, circumspect, or balanced. Refreshing.

Just noticed that in today's NY Times (C1) there is a review of the memoir Priceless: How I went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures. The author, former FBI agent Robert K. Wittman, features prominently in Turbo Paul's blog posts, since he's the undercover agent who was hot on the trail of the works stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. Read the review here.


  1. I'm glad you pointed these out as I missed reading the NYTimes this weekend and am fascinated by art theft. Truly a refreshing voice.

    Happy Monday!

  2. After I saw your comment I added a paragraph about a book you might want to check out - see above. Thanks,Suzanne

  3. Have you checked the Stolen Vermeer blog lately, Suzanne? It's all atwitter about Whitey Bulger's arrest.