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Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners

In 1994 two important paintings by J.M.W. Turner—then valued at twenty-four million pounds—were stolen from a German public gallery while on loan from Tate Britain. In this vivid, personal account, Sandy Nairne who was then Director of Programmes at the Tate and became centrally involved in the pursuit of the paintings and the negotiations for their return, retells this complex, 8-year, cloak-and-dagger story, which finally concluded in 2002 with the pictures returning to public display at the Tate.
In addition to this thrilling narrative, Nairne unravels stories of other high-value art thefts, puzzling what motivates a thief to steal a well-known work of art that cannot be sold, even on the black market. Nairne also examines the role of art theft within the larger underworld of international looting and illicit deals among art and antique collectors. The art heist, of course, is a popular theme of crime novels and films, and Nairne considers these depictions as well, investigating the imaginative construction of the art thief, the specialist detective, and the mysterious collector.
Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners is a compelling, real-life detective story that will keep both art and mystery lovers eagerly turning pages.


280 pages | 18 halftones | 5 1/2 x 8 1/2 | © 2011

Art: Art--General Studies

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“Rarely does an institution victimized by an art theft recover its stolen works of art. . . . It is also rare that someone associated with the victimized institution writes an intriguing, in-depth account of the recovery effort. Sandy Nairne has just such a captivating account in Art Theft and the Case of the Stolen Turners . . . a dramatic narrative of the case that dispels many of the myths and misconceptions that have surrounded the circumstances of the works’ extraordinary recovery. . . . I would recommend Nairne’s new book to anyone interested in the intricacies of stolen art recovery.”

Art Theft Central

“This is an engrossing volume . . . with behind-the-scenes stories of an incredibly complicated recovery that included not only the Tate but also Scotland Yard, Britain’s High Court, the Department for National Heritage, the Charity Commission, and the Attorney General’s Office, as well as the Frankfurt Prosecutor’s Office and the German Federal Crimes Police.”

Milton Esterow | ARTnews

Table of Contents


Part One
1. Loss
2. Pursuit
3. Recovery
4. Return
Part Two
5. Ethics
6. Value
7. History
8. Fiction
9. Future

Select Bibliography
Photo Acknowledgements

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