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Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft

3.8  ·  Rating details ·  985 Ratings  ·  73 Reviews
Priceless masterpieces...Brazen thefts:

The true story behind the blank spaces on the museum walls.
What kind of person would dare to steal a legendary painting—and who would buy something so instantly recognizable? In recent years, art theft has captured the public imagination more than ever before, spurred by both real life incidents (the snatching of Edvard Munch’s well
Hardcover, 192 pages
Published October 28th 2006 by Sterling (first published January 1st 2006)
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The Lover's Portrait by Jennifer S. AldersonVanished Smile by R.A. ScottiThe Art Forger by B.A. ShapiroThe Rape of Europa by Lynn H. NicholasThe Forger's Spell by Edward Dolnick
Art Fraud And Theft
177 books — 138 voters
The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. NicholasThe Forger's Spell by Edward DolnickThe Lady in Gold by Anne-Marie  O'ConnorPriceless by Robert K. WittmanThe Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick
Art Crime
43 books — 54 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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May 26, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: crime-and-trial, art
A good quick read about the theft of art. In some cases too general, so functions more as an introduction. It does trace the historical cases, so not just the big modern criminal cases. Nicely illustrated. Especially at the end where the museum is presented.
Lance Charnes
Dec 31, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Readers who want true crime with pretty pictures
Museum of the Missing is a fast, solid introduction to and survey of art theft over the past century.

Houpt – a Canadian arts columnist for The Globe and Mail – writes as if the reader knows a painting from a statue and has at least heard of the big names in art, but has no specialized knowledge of either art or the art market. By and large this works well; he doesn’t bother explaining who Rembrandt or Picasso are, but will spend a line identifying some of the less-famous names he mentions.

Friends of  Linebaugh Library
This is an interesting book about the history of art theft and the crazy things people do, and ultimately the loss to everyone when cultural objects are stolen. It is pretty fascinating even if you're interested art history at all. It is a history of art thefts, some solved, many still open, and concludes with a wonderful appendix of a "museum of the missing" - color plates of works still lost to theft.

It inspired the documentary "The Rape of Europa," although the movie focused only on art stole
Jun 16, 2014 rated it it was ok
I enjoyed the concept of this book which does an excellent job of revealing the world of art theft and missing art. It is chockful of interesting, well chosen stories and the author wisely decided to illustrate all the art discussed. The illustrations are much of the interest in this book. His tone is a little stiff at times and the large inset single story panels sometimes break up the rhythm of a longer story he is telling. The inset panels are a strange editorial decision. Each is interesting ...more
Michelle X.
Apr 14, 2014 rated it liked it
Good overview of the history of art theft, though heavily biased in the way books on this subject typically are-- as in, it's certainly not written at all with the thieves' perspective in mind. Still, the information is good and the pictures are neat (even if the language is a bit melodramatic at times). Good to read as an introduction if you're planning on delving more into the subject (which I highly recommend).
David R.
Aug 05, 2011 rated it liked it
Shelves: art, crime
A fairly lightweight treatment of art theft over the ages. There are many distracting sidebars focused on specific incidents and aspects of the art trade, and the narrative never goes into detail on even the most notorious thefts. This one may serve as an introduction to the subject, but can be ignored by more serious students.
Fraser Sherman
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: art
This hooked me partly because the open frame on the cover is one I've actually seen (the Gardner Museum still has it sitting on the wall but the painting inside went bye-bye in the 1990s). But it's good even in its own right as Houpt studies the great art thefts, cultural appropriation of Third World treasures and art taken by conquest (while I was familiar with Nazi efforts, I didn't know Napoleon was so aggressive in looting his empire), the fate of the art (the mother of one thief decided to ...more
Sep 13, 2017 rated it really liked it
I've always love a good heist movie, but what's the real thing like. This book gives a brief history of art dealership and how art got so expensive, big heists, and current issues such as security and restitution from the holocaust. All of this of this, plus beautiful artwork, makes this a fun non-fiction book.
Sep 04, 2017 rated it really liked it
This was a more basic/less action-packed version of Robert Wittman's Priceless. The book dealt with a very general overview of different aspects of art theft (art theft in war, art as commodity, security of art, etc.). I would have been more interested to read up on different paintings that have been stolen over time (i.e. an art book about missing pieces).
Sep 16, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: year-2017
I was absolutely amazed to find out how much art and antiquities have been lost, stolen, or destroyed over the last century or so. Some (a comparative few) have been recovered; others have never been seen again, at least not in public. These works are our common human heritage and more funding should be allotted to art theft prevention, investigation, and recovery.
Dec 06, 2016 rated it liked it
Not as much detail as I expected. Good images at least.
Mar 06, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: art-history
This is good book about art theft that is lavishly illustrated and pitched and the lay person who is curious to know about the "great art thefts" -- and whether or not the paintings have been recovered. Naturally, this book only covered a small fraction of art thefts - the most well-known ones, such as the infamous Isabella Stewart Gardiner Museum heist. Also, since this books publication, many more works have been stolen and a few (like the 2 Van Goghs from the Van Gogh museum) have been recove ...more
Linda Lipko
Dec 17, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Prior to October of 1958, art sales were handled away from the public and art dealers selectively catered to the wealthy who requested specific works.

When Sotheby's held a black-tie affair and auctioned seven paintings from the prestigious Jakob Goldschmidt collection, they unleashed a beast. Never before was art publicly displayed for so many people, and never before was the price of art work bid frantically at such incredible high amounts.

Jakob Goldscmidt escaped Berlin during the Nazi rein of
Jennifer S. Alderson
**Excuses dat ik dit recensie in het Engels heb geschreven! Nederlands blijft toch mijn tweede taal en ik wilde dat mijn mening duidelijk overkwam. Ik hoop dat je het nog nuttig vindt...

This beautifully illustrated tome will appeal to those interested in learning more about the stories behind some of the most famous art thefts in history, ingenious swindles carried out by daring criminals, heartless looting of cultural treasures by nations, and all the law enforcement agencies and cultural insti
Jennifer S. Alderson
May 30, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art, art-history, research
This beautifully illustrated tome will appeal to those interested in learning more about the stories behind some of the most famous art thefts in history, ingenious swindles carried out by daring criminals, heartless looting of cultural treasures by nations, and all the law enforcement agencies and cultural institutions who tried (and still try) to stop them.

I’d originally borrowed this from a local library to find out more about the Gardner heist in Boston, but was so captivated by the author’s
There are brilliant thieves and astoundingly stupid thieves, here. Some steal for money, some for a strange kind of nameless fame, some become obsessed with a piece and finally lose their ability to resist its allure.

This is one of the better true crime books I have read at some time, lavishly illustrated and it tells the stories of the detectives and crime hunters as vividly at the evil doers and their planning (or lack of). Mr. Houpt examines the security systems of museums, churches, hospital
Oct 25, 2014 rated it liked it
As much as I enjoyed reading this book, I don't think that it quite lived up to its potential. It could have been a grand overview of the major conflicts in history that led to wide-scale pillaging of cultural history, a diary exploring the psyches' of the world's greatest art thieves (caught or otherwise), and a collection of tales of mystery which tell of all the works not yet found and the detectives who hunt for them. It dabbles in all of these topics - covering subjects like the reign of Na ...more
Oct 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
I loved Museum of the Missing. The topic was extremely interesting and I ended up reading every last word, even though the writing style was a little dry at points. I particularly enjoyed the chapter on art theft in times of war and Hitler's desire to open his own museum of stolen art during World War II. That definitely wasn't something we covered in my high school history classes, but it really underlines how much cultural destruction occurs in a time of war.

This book made me want to go back t
Lewes Library
While this book is decidedly Non-Fiction it reads like a fast paced thriller, constantly slapping you in the face with shocking facts of art theft throughout the ages. The book tackles the cost of art theft - both as a finanical loss and a cultural one. Houpt covers ground throughly but you never feel as though you're sitting through a college lecture. This book may be a good choice for young adults who are looking for something in the Non-Fiction realm for school, or just as a change of pace. T ...more
Oct 21, 2009 rated it liked it
I'm an easy target for those authors that'll write a good art theft story, history, outline, movie, anything! But why didn't this make 5 stars? Well I'll tell you. Simon Houpt was insistent on reminding me of how boring art thievery can be. In fact, he spends a lot of time dwelling on the institutional theft of art by countries during times of war.

Yes, he's probably right that art theft is just another buck for most criminals and he's probably right that they're just as likely to use brute stre
Oct 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing
I loved this book. It's a great introduction to the history of art theft. The book starts with theft during war (and the Nazi's and the billions of dollars of artwork that they stole, destroyed and lost) and continues to the present (where artwork is traded for drugs). I should have read this book before reading Robert Wittman's book Priceless and The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick (both of which are mentioned in this book). I especially enjoyed the appendix at the end- "Gallery of Missing Art" ...more
Oct 07, 2011 rated it really liked it
Shelves: history-art
This is a good overview of art theft and why we should care about the loss of cultural treasures, whether they are fine arts or antiquities. The best part of the book is the photos of the beautiful paintings and items that have been stolen--which is the saddest part of the book. The authors don't include in their comprehensive catalog much of the art that went missing during the Holocaust, although they have a good chapter about the subject. Recommended for anyone interested in art history or ar ...more
Mar 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Wow, If you are interested in seeing the movie "Lady in Gold", this book gives a good explanation to the movie. In the last week, hearing about the movie and reading this book it gives a good insight to works of art affected by World War I and II. That is not the books only focus but it is very insightful. It's also eye opening that these works of art are so easily taken by an average person all the way to countries who will not return these pieces to the rightful owner. I think this is what I l ...more
Rosa King
Jun 18, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: art
I enjoyed this brief history of art theft. A quick read accompanied by a good selection of quality photographs, this beautifully laid out book has interesting “sidebar” pages of images and anecdotes. Though related to the chapter content, I found the sidebars distracting at times when they interrupted the flow of the text they were meant to support. Overall, I would recommend this book because it made me aware of how art theft impacts our perception of art, its value, and how it compromises legi ...more
Anna Richland
Sep 15, 2013 rated it liked it
Shelves: novel-research
I'm on an art-theft-con-artist reading kick, because the hero of my current romantic suspense novel is a thief. This book was full of wonderful history of thefts, engagingly written, many pictures. I especially liked the 30 page appendix that was set up like a museum catalog of stolen artworks.

The research into the art and the actual thefts is strong. The only weak part is the way the author sometimes stretches to make broad statements about organized crime - not as strong as the rest of the bo
Jan 04, 2009 rated it really liked it
The color reproductions of artwork are fabulous. Houpt, I think, does a really nice job of summarizing major issues with art theft, contemporary and historical. Great stories, well told. I like that he centers focus on the Gardner theft, unsolved to date. Obviously, this work is a scratch on the surface of all that's really happened, worldwide. Role of war, and now, drug trafficking, in art theft business is certainly food for thought.
Sep 06, 2014 rated it really liked it
I really liked this book. I have only a general knowledge of the mostly Western art this book discussed, but still found it very engaging and readable. The book touches on great plunderers of art like Napoleon and the Nazis, more modern crooks and famous art heists and frauds, and gives some history of why art theft has become so lucrative (it has to do with inflated prices and sophisticated international gangs). Recommend to anyone interested in art or modern crime.
Aug 20, 2008 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: nonfiction
Reading Museum of the Missing felt a little like reading a high school text book entitled "Introduction to Art Theft." It was a fascinating topic, and the book was full of interesting stories and lots of beautiful pictures, but I guess I wanted more. Actually, now that I think about it, it was kind of like watching a show about art theft on Discovery or History channel. I think my favorite part was the gallery of missing art at the end of the book.
Jun 17, 2009 rated it liked it
So far I'm finding it interesting, but Houpt does not go into enough depth and barely scratches the topic. More like an overview or something you might see on the History Channel. Many short vignettes and editorializing, by the author. However, the photos are wonderful. At the end of the book, there is a photo gallery which is my favorite part.
Aug 19, 2013 rated it it was ok
Shelves: nf_aig, cat_reviewed
Lightweight, and not memorable.
Felt like there was a lack of detail here, and that the author was more interested in pushing his feelings on crime/theft (in broad strokes).

Probably the most interesting section was the "Gallery of Missing Art" appendix.

Worth flipping through just for the reproductions, though.
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Art Crime: Museum of the Missing: A History of Art Theft 4 5 Feb 29, 2012 08:37PM  
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