My Interview with Hot Art author Joshua Knelman
5 Questions for Joshua Knelman
What started out as an award-winning piece for The Walrus magazine about an art theft at a local gallery in Toronto became something of an obsession for Joshua Knelman, one that would take him around the world. Knelman wound up spending four years researching art thefts, the criminals behind them, and those who pursue them. From riding in the backseat of an LAPD cop car, to sitting down with a local art thief who threatens to break Knelman's legs if he reveals too much, the cops and criminals interviewed in Hot Art are as complex and compelling as Knelman's investigative reporting is far-reaching and engaging.
The Indigo Blog sat down with Mr. Knelman over lattes at the author’s home to uncover some truths about art theft in Canada and around the world.
Indigo Fiction Blog (IFB): It seems the Pierce Brosnan remake of The Thomas Crown Affair, the Hollywood movie about a dashing and exceedingly wealthy art thief, has created a sort of myth in the public perception about what art theft is. Can you explain the myth and its implications?
Joshua Knelman (JK): The myth is the idea that you’ve got some rogue billionaires or millionaires out there who are stealing really famous works of art from museums, and then basically whisking them down to an island in the south and cracking open some champagne and enjoying them in the privacy of their private island. If that were the problem then we really wouldn’t have a problem. That would mean that every year we’d have only a couple of paintings missing and a couple of really happy billionaires somewhere on an island in the sun.
The myth, spread first through Hollywood and the media, is beautiful in that it provides a really easy explanation for what has happened when a famous work of art is stolen from a museum. But I don’t bring up The Thomas Crown Affair in the book in any way to be facetious or because I love the movie. I bring it up because it in itself is a challenge currently to anyone who is an art detective, works in the FBI, in Scotland Yard, any serious cultural lawyer, because the myth has become so pervasive that anyone whose trying to gain any political support to battle art theft on an international theft encounters, usually, people who already feel that they know what the problem is and the problem that they are familiar with is the myth not the reality. One of the things I really wanted to do with the books was to turn the myth upside-down and reveal the much larger, much more interesting, much more complex game of international art theft.