Art Crime Expert Robert Wittman Captivates Boise

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Art crime expert Robert Wittman signs his book, Priceless.
  • Art crime expert Robert Wittman signs his book, Priceless, during a Jan. 19 appearance in Boise.

Robert K. Wittman, the founder of the FBI's Arts Crime Team, captivated an audience in the Senate auditorium of the Idaho State Capitol on Jan. 19.

"You've got a great city here," Wittman told the crowd. "Even with the snow and the rain and all that, it's better than Philadelphia."

In addition to the details of his exploits solving international art crimes, Wittman showed footage from a hotel room sting in Copenhagen, and a fantastic slide show comparing sexy Hollywood art thieves to their real-life, pasty-faced counterparts.

Art is a $200 billion a year industry worldwide, with $80 billion worth of art sales taking place in the United States. Of that number, $6 billion comes from illicit sales—stolen artwork or cultural relics—Wittman told the audience. He put that $80 billion number in context:

"Art is three times the size of the country's four major sports: basketball, baseball, hockey, football ... combined," Wittman said.

With a grant from the Idaho Humanities Council and sponsorship from Boise State's Arts Department and Department of Criminal Justice, the Boise Art Museum brought Wittman to speak about his book Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World's Stolen Treasures.

If you missed out on his lecture Thursday night, you can catch Wittman during a special book signing at BAM's reception for Open to Interpretation from 5:30-8 p.m. today, Friday, Jan. 20. Light hors d'oeuvres, entertainment from Frim Fram Four and Heirloom Dance Studio and a no-host bar are included in the $10 admission. BAM members get in free.

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