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Art History and Crime: A detective series


Event Description

Interested in art history? Enjoy hearing tales of scandal, rivalry, theft, and rediscovery in the art world? Then this is the series for you! A six-week series of talks with a discussion group at the end. Put on your detective hat and shows and be prepared to investigate some shocking cases...

1) The Thefts of the Mona Lisa

How well do you know the world's most famous painting? It was stolen in 1911 and rocketed to world stardom. But there is more to the story, including the implication of Pablo Picasso in the theft, a wild goose chase tricking the Nazis and a tea cup wielding maniac attacking it. This talk will provide a deep look at the many fascinating stories behind Leonardo's Mona Lisa.

2) The World's Most Coveted Masterpiece

What is the most frequently stolen artwork in history? The Guinness Book has it wrong (with apologies to "The Take-Away Rembrandt," stolen "only" 4 times from the Dulwich Picture Gallery). The answer is Jan van Eyck's "Ghent Altarpiece," which is also arguably the most important painting ever made. This talk will look at the art and criminal history of this amazing altarpiece, which has been stolen by renegade vicars, Napoleon and in two world wars, as well as in one heist modelled on a popular novel.

3) The Treasure Hunter's Guide to Lost Art

Based on my 2018 book, The Museum of Lost Art, this talk will look at some of the most important artworks that are lost. Many were made by world famous creators, from Leonardo to Caravaggio and beyond, but most will never have seen them nor heard of them. How is art lost and what are some of the amazing tales of rediscovery? Join us to find out.

4) The Art of Forgery

Based on my 2015 book, The Art of Forgery, this talk will introduce famous forgers, their modus operandi, and five variations on the "provenance trap" that consistently fools art experts. Learn the stories of forgers including Brits John Myatt, Shaun Greenhalgh and Eric Hebborn, as well as the infamous Han van Meegeren and more.

5) The Complete(ish) History of Sculpture in 60 Minutes

One of my most popular talks is an adrenaline-fueled speed race through the history of sculpture, fitting in the most important movements, styles and examples...and all in one hour, with the clock counting down and the heart racing. This is as close to sport as art history gets!

6) The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock and Rivalry Shaped the Art World

Based on my newest book, this talk will look at how three traditionally negative things--scandal, shock and rivalry--have actually benefited the development of art and the artists involved in them. From Caravaggio to Ulay, from Picasso to Michelangelo, let us illuminate the dark shadows of the art world.

  • Duration: 6 x 60 mins
  • Online Zoom event: Join from your computer, phone or tablet (a recording will be available)
Dr Noah Charney

Meet the Host, Dr Noah Charney

Dr Noah Charney is a professor of art history and internationally best-selling author of more than 15 books, including a Pulitzer finalist. He writes often for The Guardian and other prominent media, and presents on television and radio, including for the BBC. His latest books include The Devil in the Gallery: How Scandal, Shock and Rivalry Shaped the Art World and Making It: The Artist's Survival Guide. He is renowned for his dynamic talks (even via Zoom) and has spoken at the National Gallery and the Metropolitan Museum of Art, among countless other venues.