In this four-part seminar, learn the history of art crime, how it's discovered and exposed, and begin an investigative project of your own.
Museums, private collections, and the art market are filled with works of art that have criminal histories. They’ve been ripped from ancient tombs, looted from colonized source communities, or forged to dupe unsuspecting buyers. But in recent years, journalists, academics, and amateurs alike have used social media crowdsourcing and special searches to unearth these dark histories, bring stolen sacred artifacts home, and expose criminal activity behind a surprising amount of artwork. In this course, you’ll learn how to identify and expose art crime alongside Erin Thompson, America’s only full-time professor of art crime—looking to some of the greatest investigations that have uncovered theft and fraud in the art world for reference. Over the course of four sessions, you’ll trace the history and most common forms of art crime, learn the techniques of investigating it, and begin working on an investigation of your own.
Syllabus at a Glance
There are four total sessions included in this purchase, each lasting for 1.5 hours on four Mondays beginning November 2.
Session 1 (Monday, 11/2, 7-8:30 PM ET): How art becomes criminal
Session 2 (Monday, 11/9, 7-8:30 PM ET): Finding fakes
Session 3 (Monday, 11/16, 7-8:30 PM ET): Cracking the case
Please note we will skip the week of American Thanksgiving.
Session 4 (Monday, 11/30, 7-8:30 PM ET): Workshop + next steps
Prior to class, students should purchase Veritas: A Harvard Professor, a Con Man and the Gospel of Jesus's Wife.
Atlas Obscura Online Courses
Our online courses offer opportunities for participants to emerge with new skills, knowledge, connections, and perspectives through multi-session classes designed and taught by expert instructors. Courses can take one of two forms: Seminars are intimate, interactive classes—capped at nine to 20 students—exploring topics and crafts through discussion, workshops, assignments, and in-class activities. We also offer lecture series that can be attended live, or viewed a time that works for you for up to one week after they’ve aired.
To learn more about our current course offerings, please visit www.atlasobscura.com/online-courses.
Once registered, you can access the Zoom room for this experience through your confirmation email or Eventbrite account.
Erin Thompson is America’s only full-time professor of art crime. She studies the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through theft, looting, and the deliberate destruction of art. She has discussed art crime topics as a talking head, opinion writer, and invited lecturer in universities around the world. She is working on her next book, Smashing Statues: The Rise and Fall of American Monuments (Norton, 2021), while her first book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors (Yale) was named an NPR Best Book of 2016. You can follow her at @artcrimeprof.
This is an interactive, small-group, seminar-style course that will meet on Mondays over Zoom. Students will be invited to participate in discussions, workshop their projects, and receive feedback from the course instructor.
Between sessions, students will read some of the greatest examples of art crime journalism and work on their own investigation with guidance from the instructor. Expect to spend a few hours a week on this—or far more, if you start following some good clues!
There are 27 spots available on this experience.