‘Lost Art: The Art Loss Register Casebook Volume One’ to be released soon!

The world of art crime and recovering stolen art and antiquities is the focus of a new book from Anja Shortland, exploring the way that public and private initiatives interact and collaborate to address this important issue.

Lost Art: The Art Loss Register Casebook Volume One is available from 21st June 2021, published by Unicorn.

Countless dollars of art are stolen or looted every year, yet governments often consider art theft a luxury problem. With limited public law enforcement, what prevents thieves, looters and organised criminal gangs from flooding the market with stolen art? How can theft victims get justice – even decades after their loss? What happens if the legal definition of a good title is at odds with what is morally right? Enter the Art Loss Register, a private database dedicated to tracking down stolen artworks. Blocking the sale of disputed artworks creates a space for private resolutions – often amicable and sometimes entertainingly adversarial. This book is based on ten cases from the Art Loss Register’s archive, showing how restitutions were negotiated, how priceless objects were retrieved from the economic underworld and how thieves and fences end up in court and behind bars. A fascinating guide to the dark side of the global art market.:

Overview of chapters:

  1. Introduction
  2. The Moral Maze: Negotiating the Return of a Multimillion-dollar Cézanne
  3. The Criminal Lawyer: Finder or Fence?
  4. The Santamarina Impressionists: A ‘Very Political’ Recovery
  5. A Find in the Attic: The Missing Minutes of the Royal Society
  6. Sleeping Beauty: From Grubby Seascape to Saleroom glory?
  7. Justice v the Law: Restitution of Holocaust-era Looted Art
  8. A Convenient Grey Zone: ‘Restoring’ Antique Furniture
  9. Outfoxed: The table with the Hairy Hocks
  10. Illicit Antiquities: Looters v Archaeologists
  11. Some Like it Hot: Fencing Stolen Watches
  12. Conclusion: Transforming the Norms of the Art Market


“Anja Shortland’s informative, well written account of the ALR’s massive contribution to regularizing the art market is unparalleled. She succinctly makes the point that the norms and generational attitudes in this last unregulated market are slowly changing due in no small part to stalwart work by the ALR. Furthermore, we would not have been able to recover the family’s cabinet from Malletts, now on display in Dublin Castle, without the highly professional assistance of the ALR.”

–Robert Jocelyn, Lord Roden, victim of theft.

“Anja Shortland has done it again. Following from the success of her prize-winning book Kidnap, Prof Shortland delves into another private solution to a complex market governance problem. Her new book chronicles the positive impact of the Art Loss Register on the market for stolen art. At the same time, Lost Art offers an engrossing Case Book for lovers of real detective stories. A great read.”

— Federico Varese, Professor of Criminology, University of Oxford and author of Mafia Life

“Lost Art is a brilliant study about the private rules and regulations, the private governance, that help create trust in the market for fine art. Prof. Shortland provides an in-depth look at steps taken by the Art Loss Register and other groups to reduce fraud and the sale of stolen goods. Full of interesting examples and history, this book will be of interest to law and economics scholars and anyone interested in how art markets function. Highly recommended.”

— Edward P. Stringham, President of the American Institute for Economic Research and author of Private Governance.

“Few markets are more glamorous—or more perilous—than the market for art. With billions of dollars transacted internationally and no shortage of crooks eager to grab their share, small armies would seem necessary to make the art market work. Yet remarkably, Shortland shows, its success owes mostly to private institutions, chief among them the Art Loss Register. Lost Art is a fabulous and fascinating investigation of the governance mechanisms that make the art market tick.”

— Peter T. Leeson Duncan Black Professor of Economics and Law at George Mason University and author of The Invisible Hook

“A masterful tour through the hidden world of lost art. Shortland provides a fascinating look at how order emerges in an unlikely way. Through fascinating case studies, she subtly and persuasively teaches important lessons about the role of institutions and economics.”

— David Skarbek, Associate Professor of Political Science at Brown University and author of The Puzzle of Prison Order

“Anja Shortland’s book is an engaging account of the impact of provenance and authenticity on artistic and cultural property, demonstrating the importance of databases for preserving all cultural heritages. The interests of those involved in the custody and ownership of artworks, both aligned and in conflict, are fascinating. A rewarding and entertaining book.”

— Peter MacDonald Eggers QC

“For those in the law who have an interest in art and law enforcement this book is a must. It contextualises the legal issues about art loss and theft. It makes them interesting and accessible whilst remaining faithful to accuracy.”

— Paul Darling QC

“This is a much-needed book that reminds us of the sheer amount of stolen art, still unrecovered.  On one level, each chapter provides an extremely well written storyline that would be the envy of many a screenwriter.  On another, it shows the consequences both to the immediate victims and to wider society.  It also illustrates the extensive legal and investigatory persistence often needed to locate and recover stolen art.   Given competing demands for limited police resources, this can only come from the private sector.  It should be essential reading not just to art owners and insurers but to all who care about the preservation of our cultural heritage.”

— David Scully, former Fine Art Underwriter  AXA and XL Insurers and author of The Law and Practice of Fine Art Insurance.

“The Art Loss Register has performed an invaluable service for the art trade in providing the most comprehensive database we have of stolen and looted art and in helping to recover many of these items. We owe a big debt of gratitude to Julian Radcliffe for the initiative he took in establishing this private company back in 1990 and for thereby filling what would otherwise have been a significant gap in our defences.”

— Christopher Battiscombe CMG Director General Society of London Art Dealers (SLAD).

About the Author

ANJA SHORTLAND is a Professor in Political Economy at King’s College London specialising in the economics of crime. She studies private order systems in the world’s trickiest markets: hostages, hijacked ships, fine art and antiquities. She researches how people work and invest in complex and hostile territories and studies trades between legal and illegal enterprises. Her previous book, Kidnap: Inside the Ransom Business revealed how special risk insurance at Lloyd’s of London helps to bring abducted people home safely.

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