Image via Anthony M. Amore
We are huge fans of Anthony M. Amore at DigBoston, and not only because it is awesome that, as director of security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, he’s tasked with returning the treasures that were notoriously stolen from that institution 25 years ago. He’s always fun to speak with about recent developments in that case, and we certainly went there in our interview below, but in addition to his role at the Gardner and position as a local guy who happens to be one of the world’s top stolen art investigator-authors, we heart Amore for his pointing us in the right direction on our own caper.
As readers may recall, there is a solid marble bust of early Bay State education reformer Charles Brooks in storage at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art that we believe was stolen from the Massachusetts State House, and Amore has been very helpful on that front. No news yet on whether we will get it back, but there is some hope after all, and it’s largely thanks to him. This is all related, you see, since said search for the Brooks sculpture was inspired by Amore’s last book, Stealing Rembrandts.
This time around, we asked Amore about all of the above, but also about his latest, The Art of the Con: The Most Notorious Fakes, Frauds, and Forgeries in the Art World, from which we ran an excerpt this week. If you’re addicted to tales of highbrow thievery, then the book should prove to have the same effect as crack-cocaine or catnip. Be sure to read with extreme caution, as you are now officially in danger of tumbling down the art theft rabbit hole.
Does all of the press help the overall Gardner search effort, does it confuse matters, or is it a little bit of both?
Press coverage certainly helps to keep our missing art in the people’s consciousness, where it certainly should be. The theft represents a huge loss to Boston and to the world. Our most recent release of the video from 24 hours before the heist has elicited a great response from the public, so we are heartened that people still care.
How did you come into your job at the Gardner?
Having spent 15 years with federal government agencies in security and investigations, I was intrigued by the Gardner’s need for someone with my exact skill set. One visit to the museum was all it took to completely sell me on the honor of working for the institution.
Do you consider yourself a writer and author first?
I consider myself an investigator first, and I like to think I am an old-fashioned sleuth because my mentors have been retired agents and detectives who put emphasis on doing the hard work and expending shoe-leather to find answers. It’s not unlike your own philosophy of getting out of the office and out amongst the people.
When do you actually write? I would imagine the museum could be quite inspirational considering your topic of choice.
My writing is the result of the research I do for my job and I spend an inordinate amount of my free time on it. The museum is a remarkably inspiring place, and I truly believe that Isabella Stewart Gardner ranks among the most important women in American history.
How much is your new book a continuation of your former work and research, and what compels you to continue writing about this? Does it feel like a hopeless endeavor sometimes?
My first book, Stealing Rembrandts, was an examination into who really steals masterpieces, why they do it, and what becomes of the art. I found that reality is more interesting and vastly different from what is depicted in movies. I thought looking into fraud would be an interesting progression from that book, and my findings were similar: fact is more interesting than fiction. I guess I must admit that I am compelled by my obsession related to the Gardner theft as well as life-long fascination with true crime.
What was the big ‘Oh shit’ moment in the writing process of your latest?
That would definitely be the realization that there is really no shortage of people willing to shell over more money than I could dream of for art based on the thinnest provenance one can imagine.
What can you tell us about the Gardner Heist that nobody knows and that will make this interview a super duper exclusive?
I don’t know if it is exclusive-worthy, but I can tell you that the museum is incredibly eager to pay the reward we are offering. The reward is $5 million for information that leads directly to the return of our art. That means you don’t have to bring it to me, just give me the information that gets me there, and you will receive the biggest private reward the world has ever seen.