Priceless by Robert K. Wittman

Priceless

The Wall Street Journal called him “a living legend.” The London Times dubbed him “the most famous art detective in the world.” In Priceless, Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, pulls back the curtain on his remarkable career for the first time, offering a real-life international thriller to rival The Thomas Crown Affair.    Rising from humble roots as the son of an antique dealer, Wittman built a twenty-year...


Details Priceless

TitlePriceless
Author
Release DateJun 1st, 2010
PublisherBroadway Books
LanguageEnglish
GenreNonfiction, Art, Autobiography, Memoir, Crime, True Crime, Mystery, Biography, History
Rating

Reviews Priceless

  • Connie
    2013-07-28
    "Undercover work is like chess. You need to master your subject and stay one or two moves ahead of your opponent.....It's all about understanding human nature--winning a person's trust and then taking advantage of it. You befriend, then betray."Robert Wittman's memoir of his twenty years as an art detective for the FBI was fascinating. He traveled around the world recovering hundreds of millions of dollars of stolen art. The author points out tha...
  • Cynthia
    2010-05-24
    What a life Wittman lived as an undercover FBI agent hunting down stolen treasures. I ‘m amazed he was able to use the same undercover name for twenty years without the bad guys catching up with him. I’d assumed the art theft underworld was fairly small and maybe it is for criminals with some art knowledge but they mostly seem to be inept bumblers who see an opportunity and take it. So many museums are under secured it’s a shame. In the end...
  • Cameron
    2012-08-22
    Somehow, I knew that art thieves were not all really like Pierce Brosnon's Thomas Crowne, hiding Picasso's in his mane of chest hair, or like Catherine Zeta Jones getting her freak on with laser alarms. Yet, I wanted to believe that they were like that. But, "Priceless" serves to put those rumors to rest. A tell-all about the art crime industry from the FBI's pioneer in the field, the book shares tale after tale of the tawdry, seedy, and even bon...
  • Kye
    2012-02-25
    I've always wanted to be a secret agent but never could identify with law-enforcement types. Confessing his "odd man out" status within the ranks of his peers, Bob Wittman's deep reverence for the sacred objects of art and culture bound our souls together from the first pages. His willingness to go deep underground and risk his life to save a single "priceless" work is truly heroic. Naturally I gobbled up all the juicy pointers peppered along the...
  • Jonathan Lopez
    2010-04-16
    In this stunning autobiography, former FBI undercover agent Robert K. Wittman details his 20-year career investigating the murky world of art theft. Adopting the false but carefully documented identity of Bob Clay, a shady art dealer with a taste for contraband, Wittman successfully infiltrated domestic and international criminal networks to recover more than $225 million worth of stolen cultural property — items ranging from a Rembrandt self-p...
  • Lance
    2015-05-06
    This was a very fascinating read. It catalogues the career of the ONLY full time Art theft agent. Over his career he recovered Geronimo's headrest, an 800 year old piece of armor and even an original Bill Of Rights missing for over a hundred years. All total the value of his recovered art is well over 250 MILLION DOLLARS. It was written very well and was actually quite entertaining.
  • Kara Jorges
    2012-12-21
    As someone who enjoys crime fiction, I thought it would be fun to read some crime NON-fiction, and possibly learn a few things. While this book was vague on a few details on the inner workings of the FBI, it was highly informative, both about art heists and government bureaucracy. Bob Wittman began his career with the FBI without any law enforcement experience, but his job history and personal interests gave him some unique skills that came in ha...
  • Rebecca Curtis
    2010-12-26
    This was a fascinating and compelling read. Written by and about a retired FBI agent who spent 20 years working undercover to catch thieves and recover works of art worth millions, the cases he outlines are varied and sometimes practically unbelievable. Wittman did an excellent job of educating the reader about the history and value of the artifacts he recovered, without making it feel like reading a textbook. He also has no difficulty describing...
  • Kristi
    2011-03-07
    The content is interesting, even very interesting. The way he tells it is not. Not only is his writing dull, but it drove me crazy that he makes himself out to be the best thing to happen to the FBI since, well, the X-Files. (Personal opinion, of course - not everyone likes the X-Files.) But, seriously, man, bring the ego down a notch.
  • Cynthia
    2011-12-26
    What can i say, i'm a sucker for books about art fraud. this book is really interesting,not just because of the stories he tells but also because it's well-written. Each chapter could have been a book on its own.
  • Lena
    2018-05-26
    Pretty good balance between biography, true crime, art, and the soul crushing pain of bureaucracy.
  • Zachary Masino
    2018-03-20
    Really liked this book. An easy read but a fun one. Reminded me of white collar. Liked to see how an agent gets tips and goes undercover and different interesting cases. Made me want to go to Barnes meseum.
  • Michael Burnam-Fink
    2018-03-27
    I am a sucker for a good memoir of crime and justice, and this is one of the best. In his early 30s, Robert Wittman quit a career as an advertising man for an agricultural newsletter to try a hand at his dream job of being an FBI agent. A few chance accidents, like working the 1988 burglary of Rodin's "The Mask of the Man with the Broken Nose" from a Philadelphia museum, lead to his true calling as an art theft expert.As Wittman writes, art theft...
  • Sunsettowers
    2018-03-04
    Another book for the Popsugar Reading Challenge, this was an absolutely fascinating read. Wittman takes you into his world of recovering stolen art, and the many cases he was involved in-I think one of the most interesting ones to me was the Antiques Roadshow scam, as I remember watching that show!
  • Converse
    2011-01-01
    I also posted a very similar review on Amazon.com. Wittman was an FBI agent who ended up specializing in solving art crimes. One difference between dealing with art crime and other property crimes is that with the former the object is unique. Consequently, getting the object back is an important consideration, possibly more important than punishing the criminals. Most of the book is about Wittman working undercover to retrieve art and arrest th...
  • Emily
    2012-10-17
    Years ago, I decided that I wanted to see all of the extant Brueghel paintings--a fun project that has led me to visit some places I otherwise wouldn't have. Online, I've met people who are trying to do the same thing with Vermeer, but nobody new is signing on for that, even though Vermeer has fewer known works, because one of them was stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in 1990 and no one knows if it will ever be seen again.This book...
  • Doreen
    2014-10-17
    Former FBI agent Robert Wittman and writer, John Shiffman present an amazing true story of efforts to recover stolen art pieces. Paintings, sculptures, archaeological finds, coin collections, stamps, war relics, and historical documents all fall under this category. The stories are amazing! Both the cunning and stupidity of art thieves and the fences who sell these items are incredible. The FBI and other world agencies employ elaborate sting oper...
  • Chris
    2010-11-16
    I'm a sucker for any book about art theft, so this was a title for me. You'd think, then, that the impressive tales Wittman tells of going undercover and cleverly fooling art thieves at their own con would have been the high points of the book for me. But no--what fascinated me the most is the author's love/hate relationship with the FBI, and the overwhelming sense of disappointment that remains after years of trying to do his good work within it...
  • Karencita
    2012-01-07
    This was a book club selection that I was not able to read last year, but one that always intrigued me....so, when I found a copy on the shelves at the local library, I had to pick it up. I am glad that I did! This "true life" story is actually almost unbelievable! A normal "everyday joe" - from Baltimore, no less! - becomes entangled in the dangerous world of art crime and over the course of his career rescues millions of dollars of historic art...
  • Lisa
    2010-08-17
    This is the second best of the books I've read about art crime. (Better than The Rescue Artist by Edward Dolnick, easier to read but not as significant as The Rape of Europa by Lynn H. Nicholas, and not quite as good but perhaps having broader appeal than The Lost Painting by Jonathan Harr). Wittman's adventures as an FBI special agent trying to develop an undercover specialty in recovering priceless art and artifacts (and eventually succeeding)-...
  • Sarah
    2010-07-12
    This book was mostly interesting (sometimes dry), but also kind of superficial somehow. I haven't been able to pinpoint it, but the book didn't really seem to give the type of detailed lead up to the recoveries that I expected. It also bounced around a lot in the beginning, foreshadowing and flashing back so that I kept thinking I'd forgotten a character already or missed how one of the side stories ended. I am not an art aficionado, so it was in...
  • Artguy
    2012-02-04
    Very enjoyable and fascinating read as you get the insider perspective on the world of art crime. He was the FBI's only art crime investigator, and takes you through several cases as he went undercover to lure stolen treasures from their hiding place. Well written, spending most of the time on the cases themselves. Keeps moving right along. It does beg two questions: the seemingly arbitrary value of the art world's masterpieces, and how art repre...
  • Theresa
    2016-10-31
    Felt like I was reading the autobiography of that FBI agent in the TV series White Collar, but as a richer experience, considering that this is a true story. White Collar is like milk chocolate -- sweet, easy, and fun. Priceless tastes more like dark chocolate -- not so sweet, but meaningful, and as I gained understanding of artifacts and art pieces, it was fun in the end. He often started an FBI story, inserted some geeky background info when th...
  • April Helms
    2011-06-12
    You don't have to be an art connoisseur or even much of an art fan to appreciate this book. Here, Robert Wittman, now retired from the FBI, relates how he made a career of tracking down and recovering stolen art and artifacts. He recovered hundreds of millions of dollars worth of important historical artifacts and art through his career. Some highlights include the recovery of the 14th Bill of Rights, which was stolen during the Civil War; uncove...
  • Summer
    2018-02-15
    Absolutely fascinating! Behind the scenes insight into the secret world of art and antique crime. The book keeps you on the edge of your seat as you follow an undercover FBI agent throughout his career. All I can think is that I would love to have a beer with Bob & just listen to more stories he has. Definitely recommended.
  • Julia
    2011-02-06
    I'm in the arts for a living, so a book with the subject of just about anything about any aspect of art will fascinate me. I loved the premise of this book--an autobiography of a G-man's career finding stolen art and, ideally, bringing those who stole it to justice--and did enjoy it, but as I was reading it I found myself more interested in the author's description of the nuts-and-bolts of going undercover and of how the FBI works than in the sto...
  • Alicia
    2010-11-24
    So I'm sure that one day a bunch of friends got together and were telling stories about their jobs. And Bob Whittman is like "ok, and then there was this one time where I went down to Brasil to get some Norman Rockwell paintings. . . " Oh, and this other time that I went to New Mexico and bought some Indian Headdresses" and "Oh, and another time the guy came to the exchange meeting with a gun and a hacksaw. He was planning on stealing the money (...
  • Emily
    2011-02-11
    Despite the author's repeated insistence that art theft is nothing like how it is depicted in the movies and on TV, the anecdotes he shares with us readers are just as exciting and interesting and shocking. This memoir was highly enjoyable and easy to read but I was left with two sadly unsatisfying feelings:1. That the best and juiciest portions of his undercover work were left unwritten or edited out (to protect people?). What there is is certai...
  • Chris
    2011-02-16
    This book almost feels bipolar. At times, it is a very good book about the stealing of art. Other times, it is a personal story about an FBI agent.Sadly, the personal story is really boring and amounts to digressions that really, really take too long. While Wittman's background is told quickly, when he joins the FBI he seems to spend too much time that on things that have nothing to do with the title. While one particular event is important becau...
  • Mike Patrick
    2015-06-26
    I don't often read memoirs because I could care less about some stranger's life. But this offering was a joy to read. Bob Wittman is our hero and his exploits to recover historic treasures could resemble a mini series on HBO. The art thieves, shady gangsters and government bureaucratic bullies all made for a compelling examination of Bob's career. The most interesting element were his historic accounts of the art in question. I felt I was back at...