I just finished two books. The first is a must read. The second is not.
The first is The Rescue Artist. It’s a fantastic book about the 1994 recovery of Edvard Munch’s painting, The Scream. It profiles detective Charley Hill, what he thinks about the people who steal great works of art (not what I had been told!), and how he gets criminals to trust him as he goes undercover. I love the way the author, Edward Dolnick, wove numerous stories of other art heists and recoveries throughout the book. It reminded me of the way Jon Krakauer (a favorite author of mine) approaches his real-life stories.
Interestingly, I also picked up the April ARTnews, where there is an additional story about art theft, which features The Scream.
The second book I read was artist Joe Andoe’s memoir Jubilee City: A Memoir at Full Speed. Like me, Andoe hails from Oklahoma. But he had a different experience altogether of the Sooner state. Andoe received his MFA from the University of Oklahoma, and the museum there, where I worked from 1995-98, has a nice collection of his paintings (Horse is a stellar example). I briefly met Andoe at an opening during my stint there, so I was compelled to buy and read the book.
It took me awhile to get through the book. Not because it’s dense, but because it’s mostly a recount of Andoe’s drug and alcohol abuse. That was a part of Oklahoma that I really didn’t experience. (I realize that geography doesn’t really define experiences of substance abuse.)
While I found Andoe’s countless drug stories boring, I kept reading in hopes of getting to his time in the New York art world. I wanted to read about his painting and the get the skinny on the dealers and life inside. Readers looking for this will be sorely disappointed. The book seems to be more of a release for him rather than a resource for insight into the art world. In spite of his life at full speed, it’s easy to see that Andoe loves his children. And it must be said that the book doesn’t promise to reveal anything about his art or the art world. It is what it is.