Robert Wittman

  • Aired:  08/03/11
  •  | Views: 17,007

Art crime investigator Robert Wittman recovers stolen paintings around the world and explains the challenges of museum security. (5:09)

THANK YOU VERY MUCH.

MY GUEST TONIGHT RECOVERS STOLEN

PAINTINGS AND FOUND THE F.B.I.'S

NATIONAL ART CRIME SCENE.

I HEAR A LOT OF THE SUSPECTS

HAVE BEEN FRAMED.

PLEASE WELCOME ROBERT K.

WITTMAN.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

HEY MR. WITTMAN, THANK YOU SO

MUCH FOR COMING ON.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: OKAY.

YOU'VE GOT A FASCINATING JOB.

YOU ARE A FORMER SENIOR

INVESTIGATOR AND FOUNDER OF THE

F.B.I.'S ARTS CRIME TEAM.

DURING 20 YEARS OF YOUR CAREER

THERE, YOU RECOVERED MORE THAN

225 MILLION DOLLARS WORTH OF

STOLEN ART AND CULTURAL

PROPERTY.

NOW YOU'VE GOT YOUR OWN FIRM,

ROBERT WHITMAN INCORPORATED, AND

YOUR MEMOIR IS CALLED

"PRICELESS."

OKAY.

HOW DOES ONE BECOME AN

INVESTIGATOR IN ART CRIME?

THEY SAY IT TAKES A THIEF.

ARE YOU A CAT BURGLAR TURNED

GOOD?

>> NEW YORK I THINK WHAT YOU

HAVE TO DO IS YOU HAVE TO HAVE A

REAL DEEP UNDERSTANDING AND LOVE

OF ART.

I THINK THAT THAT HELPS.

AND THEN ALSO YOU HAVE TO HAVE

AN UNDERSTANDING OF THE ART

BUSINESS.

BECAUSE, YOU KNOW, WHEN WE TALK

ABOUT ART AND ART HISTORY, YOU

KNOW, PEOPLE KNOW THE STORIES OF

REMBRANDT, AND THEY KNOW THE

STORIES OF RENOIR AND MONET AND

BEING BLIND AND THAT TYPE OF

THING, BUT THAT'S NOT WHAT WE DO

WHEN WE TALK ABOUT ART CRIME.

ART CRIME IS ALL ABOUT THE ART

BUSINESS AND THE BUSINESS OF ART

AND HOW TO MAKE A DEAL IN THE

ART WORLD.

>> Stephen: HOW IS ART CRIME

COMMITTED BECAUSE, YOU KNOW,

FROM THE MOVIES, YOU SEE, YOU

KNOW, A GRID OF LASERS AND

CATHERINE ZETA-JONES PUTS ON A

SKIN-TIGHT SUIT AND SOMEHOW

SHOWING HER BUTT HELPS GET HER

THROUGH THE GRID.

I MEAN, IS IT THAT OR DO GUYS

JUST COME IN AND SNATCH STUFF

OFF THE WALL?

>> IN 20 YEARS OF DOING THESE

INVESTIGATIONS WITH F.B.I., MOST

OF THE TIME IT'S THE GUYS COMING

IN AND SNATCHING THE THINGS OFF

THE WALL.

>> Stephen: SO ART MUSEUMS

DON'T HAVE LIKE THE GIANT DOORS

THAT COME CLOSING DOWN THAT HIT

YOU IN THE NECK?

>> I'VE NEVER SEEN THE DOORS

THAT COME TOGETHER AND CLOSE UP.

AMERICAN MUSEUMS HAVE EXCELLENT

SECURITY.

SOME OF THE BEST SECURITY IN THE

WORLD ARE IN AMERICAN MUSEUM,

BUT WHEN YOU LOOK AT MUSEUMS IN

NEW YORK AND OUTSIDE OF THIS

COUNTRY, IT LEAVES A LOT TO BE

DESIRED.

THE REASON FOR THAT IS BECAUSE

IT'S VERY DIFFICULT TO INTEGRATE

THESE GOOD SECURITY SYSTEMS INTO

MUSEUMS THAT ARE HUNDREDS OF

YEARS OLD.

THE CASTLES IN FRANCE, THE

CASTLES IN GERMANY, VERY, VERY

HARD TO DEFEND AND SECURE.

>> Stephen: YOU EVER GO INTO A

MUSEUM, LOOK AT A PIECE OF ART

AND GO, I COULD STEAL THAT?

>> I ACTUALLY DON'T LOOK AT IT

THAT WAY.

I THINK THAT WHEN I GO...

[LAUGHTER]

WHEN I SEE THESE PLACES, I HAVE

GONE INTO MUSEUMS AROUND THE

WORLD IN HUNGARY AND IN ROMANIA

AND WHAT NOT, AND I'VE SEEN

REALLY BAD SECURITY.

AND I JUST FEEL BAD ABOUT IT.

I WISH THAT THERE WAS ENOUGH

FUNDS TO BE ABLE TO SUPPORT

THAT.

THE PROBLEM IS THAT SECURITY IS

NOT SOMETHING THAT MUSEUMS WANT

TO PAY FOR BECAUSE IT'S NOT THE

SEXY PART.

THE SEXY PART OF A MUSEUM IS

EXHIBITS AND IT'S PUTTING UP THE

ARTWORK.

>> Stephen: LET'S TALK ABOUT

THE UNIT ITSELF.

DOES THE F.B.I. TAKE ART THEFT

SERIOUSLY?

I MEAN, DO YOU GUYS IN THE ART

GROUP, DO YOU HAVE TO SIT AT

YOUR OWN NERDY ART TABLE AT

LUNCH.

>> WHEN I WAS... I RETIRED IN

2008, AND I STARTED THE TEAM IN

2005.

WE HAD EIGHT AGENTS AT THE TIME.

TODAY I'M HAPPY TO SAY THERE ARE

13 AGENTS AT THE F.B.I. WHO ARE

TRAINED IN ART THEFT

INVESTIGATION.

SO THEY OBVIOUSLY DO TAKE IT

SERIOUSLY.

THEY ARE GOING IN THE RIGHT

DIRECTION.

>> Stephen: LET'S TAKE A LOOK

AT SOME OF THE STUFF YOU'VE BEEN

ABLE TO RECOVER.

JIM WILL PUT UP THE FIRST

PICTURE.

WHAT IS THIS?

>> THIS IS A WONDERFUL PIECE

CALLED "THE SWING" BY FRANCISCO

GOYA.

THIS WAS STOLEN FROM A PRIVATE

HOME IN MADRID IN 2001.

>> Stephen: WHERE DID YOU FIND

THAT?

>> WE WERE ABLE TO COVER THAT IN

THE BOOT OF A CAR, WHICH IS THE

TRUNK OF A CAR, AS THEY WERE

DOING NEGOTIATIONS TRYING TO

SELL THE PAINTINGS TO ME.

WE WERE MAKING A DEAL.

>> Stephen: TO YOU?

NOW DO YOU HAVE LIKE A MUSTACHE

AND A BERET?

LIKE WHAT... DO YOU HAVE TO LOOK

LIKE A PRETENTIOUS A-HOLE WHEN

YOU GO TO RECOVER IN THE ART

WORLD AND ALWAYS HAVE A

HALF-FORMED GLASS OF CHARDONNAY

IN YOUR HAND?

LET'S LOOK AT THE NEXT ONE.

THIS IS PROBABLY THE BIGGEST

FIND THAT YOU MADE.

WHAT IS THIS?

>> WELL, FINANCIALLY SPEAKING,

THIS IS A RECOMMEND BRAN

SELF-PORTRAIT STOLEN BY GUNPOINT

AT THE SWEDISH NATIONAL MUSEUM

IN STOCKHOLM.

THAT WAS DONE IN 2000.

ANOTHER UNDERCOVER OPERATION IN

COPENHAGEN IN 2005.

>> SO YOU TRAVELED THE WORLD?

>> YES.

>> YOU'RE LIKE RENEE RUSSO IN

"THE THOMAS CROWN AFFAIR."

AND I'M SURE YOU LOOK JUST AS

GOOD IN A LACE DRESS.

THANK YOU SO MUCH FOR JOINING

ME.

>> THANK YOU.

>> Stephen: ROBERT WITTMAN.

THE BOOK IS "PRICELESS."

WE'LL BE RIGHT BACK.

[CHEERING AND APPLAUSE]

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