Take on the role of an art detective and investigate the history of famous art crimes, including high-profile heists and forgery cases. Learn the basics of art law as well as a variety of techniques to spot the difference between what is real and what is fake art.
From the looting of antiquities to Nazi theft to the seizure of paintings right off museum walls, the world of international art crime is both fascinating and diverse. In a dynamic learning environment that supplements class time with site visits and guest lectures from world-renowned art crime specialists, students will engage in an intensive study of this high-stakes arena, where millions of dollars as well as the reputations of premier cultural institutions and experts are on the line. Students will learn how fakes enter the art market and what methods are used to determine whether a work of art is authentic or a forgery, as well as investigate how and when stolen or looted works are returned to their rightful owners. Hands-on activities such as a connoisseurship workshop will allow students to engage directly with art objects.
Using case studies of the most notable art crimes of the past three centuries, students will be introduced to basic legal and ethical issues specific to the art market, guided by an expert educator and an internationally renowned art law specialist. Students will discover how two unarmed men posing as police officers could steal a dozen famous artworks valued at nearly $500 million right off the walls of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. Students will also look at works of art stolen by the Nazis that were then ultimately returned to their rightful heirs, such as the captivating case of Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer I, currently in the collection of New York’s Neue Galerie, and profiled in the 2015 film Woman in Gold.
Visits will include a combination of trips to major New York City art museums and galleries, as well as other places related to art crime.
In the past, site visits have included:
- Sotheby’s auction house
- The Old Masters collection at The Metropolitan Museum of Art, highlighting works whose authenticity has been questioned by experts
- Gustav Klimt’s Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer at the Neue Galerie in New York
- Columbia University’s collection of forgeries
Students will hear firsthand from auction house specialists, art lawyers, and forensic experts about the topics that shape our understanding of art crime.
In the past, guest speakers have included:
- Speakers from the Art Crime Unit of the FBI
- Art historians & art crime authors
- Art lawyers
- Forensic scientists
- Auction house experts
- Art insurers & handlers
Please note: This information is subject to change at any time at the discretion of Sotheby’s Institute of Art.