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 readers behind the scenes at the Met, 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. John and a small staff of security professionals housed within the Museum were responsible for all of it. 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 21st Century, John opens the files on thefts, shows 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 art—those who love it and those who take it, two groups of people that are far from mutually exclusive.