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The many ways art goes missing

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The Museum of Lost Art. By Noah Charney. Phaidon; 295 pages; $35 and £19.95

IT COULD be the plot of a Hollywood action film. On an ice-cold day in Stockholm, two cars suddenly burst into flames in the street. Police swarm to what seems to be a terrorist attack as a car speeds up to the Swedish National Museum, a grand building that fronts onto the city’s bay. Three gun-toting men jump out and sprint inside. Shouting threats through their balaclavas, they force visitors to lie down. They run through the gallery, grabbing paintings off the wall. With a haul that includes two Renoirs and a Rembrandt, they make their getaway on a speedboat, moored just outside. Five years later, in an elaborate heist, an FBI agent poses as a collector looking to snare a rarity in Copenhagen, and Rembrandt’s “Self-Portrait” is recovered.

Art theft is not always as cinematic as this real-life tale. But it is surprisingly common. In a new book Noah Charney, an art…Continue reading

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