NEW YORK TIMES BEST SELLER • One of the most remarkable true-crime narratives of the twenty-first century: the story of the world’s most prolific art thief, Stéphane Breitwieser. • “The Art Thief, like its title character, has confidence, élan, and a great sense of timing."—The New Yorker
"Enthralling." —The Wall Street Journal
In this spellbinding portrait of obsession and flawed genius, the best-selling author of The Stranger in the Woods brings us into Breitwieser’s strange world—unlike most thieves, he never stole for money, keeping all his treasures in a single room where he could admire them.
For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways from all over the world, but no one has been quite as successful at it as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than two hundred heists over nearly eight years—in museums and cathedrals all over Europe—Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend who worked as his lookout, stole more than three hundred objects, until it all fell apart in spectacular fashion.
In The Art Thief, Michael Finkel brings us into Breitwieser’s strange and fascinating world. Unlike most thieves, Breitwieser never stole for money. Instead, he displayed all his treasures in a pair of secret rooms where he could admire them to his heart’s content. Possessed of a remarkable athleticism and an innate ability to circumvent practically any security system, Breitwieser managed to pull off a breathtaking number of audacious thefts. Yet these strange talents bred a growing disregard for risk and an addict’s need to score, leading Breitwieser to ignore his girlfriend’s pleas to stop—until one final act of hubris brought everything crashing down.
This is a riveting story of art, crime, love, and an insatiable hunger to possess beauty at any cost.
APPLE BOOKS REVIEW
The Art Thief is a slim, fast read that’s incredibly rich. Author Michael Finkel wastes no time pulling us into the world of Stéphane Breitwieser, an enigmatic Frenchman who, along with his girlfriend, Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, stole over 200 works of art from museums and galleries across Europe—and kept them sequestered in their attic apartment, where they could admire them from their canopied bed. Finkel intersperses his account of Breitwieser’s jaw-dropping crime spree—which stretched between 1997 and 2001—with matter-of-fact observations about his subject’s bizarre quirks and arrested development, along with commentary from psychologists and some of the detectives who struggled to catch him. This is a riveting true-crime book with zero violence but endless mystery.
In this masterful true crime account, Finkel (The Stranger in the Woods) traces the fascinating exploits of Stéphane Breitwieser, a French art thief who stole more than 200 artworks from across Europe between 1995 and 2001, turning his mother's attic into a glittering trove of oil paintings, silver vessels, and antique weaponry. Mining extensive interviews with Breitwieser himself, and several with those who detected and prosecuted him, Finkel meticulously restages the crimes, describing the castles and museums that attracted Breitwieser and Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, his accomplice and romantic partner; the luminous oils and sculptures that caught Breitwieser's eye; and the swift, methodical actions he took to liberate his prizes. According to Breitwieser, his sole motive was aesthetic: to possess great beauty, to "gorge on it." Drawing on art theory and Breitwieser's psychology reports, Finkel speculates on his subject's addiction to beauty and on Anne-Catherine's acquiescence to the crimes. The account is at its best when it revels in the audacity of the escapades, including feats of misdirection in broad daylight, and the slow, inexorable pace of the law. It's a riveting ride.
Compelling true story
Well written, flows well, never boring. Intriguing true story about famous art heists
The Art Thief
An incredible story of a wasted life and a man’s life of desperation. His life of uncommon thievery destroyed not only his life, but those who actually loved him. A tragedy.
Well written, but hard to read about a man so lacking in, well, so much.