Two German journalists offer a survey of true crime in the billion-dollar visual art world, where the extent of the economic and cultural damage that results from criminality in the global art scene rarely comes to light.
... hair-raising ... Art and Crime offers riveting details of the case of the German art adviser Helge Achenbach, who defrauded collectors of tens of millions of euros ... For reasons perhaps connected to the German legal system, Art and Crime shies away from naming many of those it cites, giving just first names and initials. This seems unnecessary since most can immediately be found on the internet. The book is not particularly well written, perhaps due to this reviewer reading the translation, and is sometimes a little confusing ... At the end Koldehoff and Timm propose 10 simple questions...that anyone in the trade should ask themselves before any transaction, and they even venture that such questions might lead to stories that could enhance the value of a work of art. Optimistic? Perhaps, but doing so would certainly help protect the industry against the thieves, forgers and fraudsters that Koldehoff and Timm chronicle so effectively.
... a rogue’s gallery of art scammers, rascals and outright thieves ... Ranging as far as it does, from the classical to the contemporary art markets, and jet-setting from one continent to another, Art & Crime reads like an assemblage of short exposés cobbled together into a book. Much of the data comes from court records and newspaper accounts, so there is little in the way of surprise ... The art business has always had a whiff of the scam about it, for the simple reason that the objects it sells, sometimes for many millions of dollars, have no objective value.
Some of the best chapters cover the questionable art dealings of high-profile figures like Donald Trump and Imelda Marcos; the exploration of Nazi Germany’s impact on the art world is especially well written. However, because much of the book eschews the human-interest elements that most often draw readers to true crime, the stories can feel unsatisfying. Readers, whether art enthusiasts or novices, will undoubtedly learn something new from this volume, but it’s not as memorable an experience as it could be ... Readers interested in the art trade will benefit most from Koldehoff and Timm’s work. Those seeking a true crime experience can find more engaging works elsewhere.