Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Editor's Choice: "Chasing Aphrodite" by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Editor's Choice: "Chasing Aphrodite" by Jason Felch and Ralph Frammolino

Article excerpt

How did one of the world's wealthiest museums end up keeping company with an international coterie of thieves and thugs?

Is this a growing new genre - or am I just a latecomer to the

party?

Either way, I find myself becoming ever fonder of an intriguing

niche in the world of nonfiction: books about what happens behind the

scenes in the world of great art.

First (for me, anyway) there was Jonathan Harr's 2006 book "The

Lost Painting," which describes the life of a long-lost masterpiece

by Caravaggio and reads like a fabulous detective story. Then there

was "The Gardner Heist" by Ulrich Boser (2009), a terrific read

about the infamous 1990 theft of 13 masterpieces off the walls of

Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. And "Provenance" by

Laney Salisbury and Aly Sujo (2009) is an amazing story about one of

the most audacious scams in the history of art.

The top 10 books of all time

Now the latest art-world expose that I'm adding to my library

shelf is Chasing Aphrodite: The Hunt for Looted Antiquities at the

World's Richest Museum by Los Angeles Times reporters Jason Felch

and Ralph Frammolino.

Felch and Frammolino team up to tell the story of how one of

America's most prestigious and powerful museums - the Getty

Museum of Los Angeles - found itself at the center of a storm over

looted antiquities. In truth the Getty - and its curator, Marion

True, who became the scandal's poster child for misdoing - for

the most part did nothing that other leading US museums hadn't been

doing for years. Behind their pristine facades, virtually every major

US museum dealt with looters and crooks to procure black-market

masterpieces - taking a "don't ask, don't tell" stance

toward questions of both ethics and legalities.

"Chasing Aphrodite" tells what happened when some of the

world's most victimized countries finally rose up and said,

"Don't do this anymore - or we'll see you in court."

Don't mistake this title for a beach book. Felch and Frammolino

are serious men, investigative reporters at the top of their games,

who very intelligently lay out all the issues at stake here, and

you'd probably do best to read this one sitting up straight. …

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