Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00
0:00
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

Likely Stories - The Art Thief by Michael Finkel

The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel, is a true story about a young couple who stole $2 billion worth of art - that's with a B- for more than seven years across Europe, totaling a treasure of more than 300 pieces.

You can't make this stuff up. Stephane Breitwieser was obsessed with art. He felt all art should be fully available to the public. They should be able to get up close to the art, to touch the art, and to even be able to sit in one's chair at home and eat popcorn while viewing art. He stole the art in his words, "to surround himself with beauty, to gorge on it." Breitwieser felt museums were prisons for art, and apparently he needed to break them free. Unlike most art thieves, he never stole for money.

He kept all his lifted treasures in his apartment which he shared with his girlfriend, Anna-Catherine Kleinklaus, on the top floor of his mother's home. Talk about your five-finger discount. They stole from museums, churches, exhibits, auctions, and castles. They stole oil paintings with a love especially for late Renaissance and early Baroque styles. He preferred works from the late sixteenth and early seventeenth century. Not just any piece would do. He took silver cups, vases, bowls, wristwatches, tapestries, beer tankards, flintlock pistols, and hand-bound books. /He had his own collection of 500 books on art for reading and researching, as well as academic papers.

If you are envisioning something like "The Thomas Crown Affair," or a Mission Impossible drop from the ceiling, that's not how they did it. With Anna-Catherine on the lookout, during the day, often surrounded by tourists and on guided tours, Breitwieser simply used a multiple-tooled Swiss Army Knife. He wiggled screws loose and unbound wires. He picked locks, often then waving goodbye to the staff and security on the way out the door. They hid their loot in her large bag, or his overcoat A couple of times what they'd stolen was too big to walk out with, so he tossed it out the window onto the grounds and picked it up later.

They stole enough art to fill a room at the Louvre. Stealing was "aesthetic champagne." It made them feel "bubbly."

For all time, art has been stolen, but never as successfully as Breitwieser. No master thief has ever topped him. He averaged one theft every 15 days. The more they stole, the more risk Breitwieser was willing to take, including stealing without Anna-Catherine around. As reported in the book Breitwieser "believes he is a literal seer, one of the chosen few who can perceive the true beauty of things." One of my favorite thefts, if you can have such a thing, was when Anna-Catherine wasn't around. It was a rainy and dreary day with absolutely no one in an out-of-the-way church, so Breitwieser decided to take a 150 pound statue of the Madonna. The description of him dragging the Virgin Mary down the aisle because it was too heavy to carry was both appalling and hilarious. The audacity!

I'm sure the audiobook is great, but you will want to see a hardback. There is a map of Europe at the front of the book showing all the thefts. Switzerland is nearly covered in dots. There is also a sketch of their attic apartment showing where each piece was displayed, and in the middle of the book are color photos of some of the stolen pieces.

The Art Thief, by Michael Finkel was captivating, and the ending was shocking! You will want to read this one!

RECENT EPISODES OFLIKELY STORIES
Likely Stories - The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
John Hopkins Hospital... Medical Revolution...and Henrietta Lacks...are words that will ring in your mind for endless days after reading "The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks" by Rebecca Skloot.
Likely Stories - Black Cake
I've read many novels that have one or two well developed main characters, while all other characters seem more one dimensional, supporting cast types. But the novel Black Cake by Charmaine Wilkerson couldn't be more opposite of this.
Likely Stories - This Side of Paradise
Even though knowing better, Gia Chevis is a sucker for "before you die" lists. She has found one read that doesn't make the cut for her.
Likely Stories - Babel
I’m an easy mark for campus novels. I recently discovered Rebecca Kuang, known for her Poppy War trilogy and satire, Yellowface. Kuang also wrote Babel, a novel uniting magical realism and social critique
Likely Stories - The Wrong End of the Telescope by Rabih Alameddine
This past year, I’ve read plenty of books and stories, some of them normal, some of them extraordinary. Today, I want to discuss the most extraordinary book about normal people that I’ve read this past year.
Likely Stories - Ugly: The Aesthetics of Everything by Stephen Bayley
If you have been to the mountains recently and had the opportunity to soak in the alpine forests, the placid lakes, the beautiful leaves, and the pristine snow, then you may have the fourteenth-century Italian poet Petrarch to thank.
Likely Stories - Life In Five Senses by Gretchen Rubin
The five senses...what do you think of when I say that phrase? As an educator I think about teaching younger students what the senses are, and examples of them. But beyond that- do we really give them much thought?
Likely Stories - Reef Road by Deborah Goodrich Royce
The beginning of this slow burn crime fiction is a doozy. During the beginning days of the pandemic, beaches in Florida were closed to the public, but two boys sneak out to surf near Reef Road, when they spot a hand that has washed up to shore.
The Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore
Hello, my name is Shenequa Williams with this week's edition of Likely Stories. I am a Reading Interventionist teacher in Waco I.S.D. at G.W. Carver Middle School.I recently read a book called Stars Beneath Our Feet by David Barclay Moore, and could not stop turning the pages. This beautiful debut novel is a story of heartbreak, guilt, hope, and courage.
Likely Stories - The Sweet Remnants of Summer by Alexander McCall
I am a big reader. Recently, I've been reading Alexander McCall Smith's Sunday Philosophy Club Series. The latest installment, The Sweet Remnants of Summer, offers an intelligent and emotionally sensitive exploration of the light-hearted and profound.