Interview with Michael Blanding, author of The Map Thief

Disgraced map dealer Forbes Smiley once told reporter Michael Blanding that he hoped that the stories about his thefts “would go away.” That might be so. But thankfully Blanding took up the case, telling a powerful story about the nature of crime and greed. I blurbed Blanding’s book called The Map Thief: The Gripping Story of an Esteemed Rare-Map Dealer Who Made Millions Stealing Priceless Maps with those words. Recently, I interviewed Blanding via email. A lightly edited transcript below. Why did you write this book? I’ve been a lover of maps since a young age – something about looking at map … Read More

Take The Bite Out Of Crime: Why Our Nation’s Needs To Get Smart About Criminal Justice

Quick question: Does the nation have a crime problem? If you think the answer is yes, you would be in some very good—and very fearful—company. According to one recent poll, 74 percent of Americans believed that crime has gotten worse over the past year. But that perception is not vaguely accurate. In fact, the exact opposite is true. Violent crime has been steadily declining for years, and the murder rate in the United States is about the same as it was in the 1960s. In fact, according to the FBI, some crimes like car theft have dropped over 18 percent … Read More

Learning From the Gardner Art Theft

Earlier this week, the F.B.I. announced that it had identified the two men who robbed the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in March 1990, in the biggest art theft in American history. The F.B.I. said the criminals, whom it did not identify, had most likely moved their loot to Connecticut or the Philadelphia area. Twenty-three years may seem like an inordinate amount of time to solve a burglary, but the Gardner case has actually come a long way from the days when it sometimes seemed to sit on the F.B.I.’s investigative back burner — and the robbery has done a lot … Read More

FBI says that they know who robbed the Gardner museum

Big news for Gardner obsessives: The FBI believes it knows the identities of the thieves who stole art valued at up to $500 million from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990. Richard DesLauriers, the FBI’s special agent in charge in Boston, says the thieves belong to a criminal organization based in New England the mid-Atlantic states. He says authorities believe the art was taken to Connecticut and the Philadelphia region in the years after the theft, and offered for sale in Philadelphia about a decade ago. First off, kudos to the museum–and the FBI–for continuing to running down leads in this … Read More

Crime and Picasso: The Shadowy Underworld of Art

There didn’t seem anything particularly unusual about the sale of William Kingsland’s art collection, at least at first. A well-known New York art connoisseur, Kingsland died in 2006, and the auction house Christie’s was hired in the months after his death to sell many of his paintings and sculptures. But it turned out that Kingsland was not his given name. His birth name was Melvyn Kohn, and dozens of the artworks in his collection had been stolen from museums and galleries. The most notable include canvases by Pablo Picasso and John Singleton Copley and an Alberto Giacometti sculpture worth as … Read More