When he retired as the chief security officer of New York City’s Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Barelli had spent the better part of forty years responsible not only for one of the richest treasure troves on the planet, but the museum’s staff, the millions of visitors, as well as American presidents, royalty, and heads of state from around the world.
For the first time, John Barelli shares his experiences of the crimes that occurred on his watch, the investigations that captured thieves and recovered artwork, the lessons he learned and shared with law enforcement professionals in the United States and abroad, the accidents and near misses, and a few mysteries that were sadly never solved. He takes listeners behind the scenes, introduces curators and administrators, walks the empty corridors after hours, and shares what it’s like to get the call that an ancient masterpiece has gone missing.
The Metropolitan Museum covers twelve acres in the heart of Manhattan and is filled with five thousand years of work by history’s great artists known and unknown: Goya, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Warhol, Pollack, Egyptian mummies, Babylonian treasures, Colonial crafts, and Greek vases. Over the years, John helped make the museum the state-of-the-art facility it is today and created a legacy in art security for decades to come.
Focusing on six thefts but filled with countless stories that span the late 1970s through the twenty-first century, John opens the files on thefts, showing how museum personnel along with local and sometimes federal agents opened investigations and more often than not caught the thief. But of ultimate importance was the recovery of the artwork, including Celtic and Egyptian gold, French tapestries, Greek sculpture, and more. At the heart of this book there will always be artthose who love it and those who take it, two groups of people that are far from mutually exclusive.
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About the Author
John Barelli spent thirty-eight years working in the security department at the Metropolitan Museum of Art. For more than thirty years he was the individual who ran all security operations and formed and developed the department as a leader in museum security throughout the world. He holds an MA degree in criminal justice and a PhD in criminology.
Table of Contents
Chapter 1 Be My Valentine 1
Chapter 2 A King's Ransom 29
Chapter 3 Celtic Gold Trail and the Road to Recovery 57
Chapter 4 So You Want to Be an Art Thief 75
Chapter 5 The Magic Carpet Ride 101
Chapter 6 Opportunity Strikes 125
Chapter 7 The Art of Protecting Heads of State 151
Chapter 8 A Piece of the Met 167
What People are Saying About This
“The theft and sometime recovery of a work of art holds a fascination for many that John Barelli fully satisfies in these absorbing pages born of a long career studying the subject and putting it into practice at the
Metropolitan Museum of Art”.
Philippe de Montebello
Director Emeritus, the Metropolitan Museum of Art