The true story of the world’s most prolific art thief—a spellbinding portrait of obsession and flawed genius, from the bestselling author of The Stranger in the Woods.
For centuries, works of art have been stolen in countless ways, but no one has been quite as successful at stealing art as the master thief Stéphane Breitwieser. Carrying out more than two hundred brazen heists over ten years—in museums and churches across Europe—Breitwieser, along with his girlfriend, who served as lookout, stole more than three hundred artworks, worth an estimated $2 billion in total, before the unprecedented crime spree fell apart in spectacular fashion.
In The Art Thief, Michael Finkel brings us into Breitwieser’s bizarre and fascinating world. Unlike most thieves, Breitwieser never stole for money. Instead, he displated 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 nearly any security system, Breitwieser managed to pull off a breathtaking number of audacious thefts. Yet these unusual 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, and an insatiable hunger to possess beauty at any cost.