On March 18, 1990 thieves broke into Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum and stole 13 works of art including masterpieces by such renowned artists as Vermeer, Rembrandt and Degas, in what would become history’s largest art theft. Thirty years later, the crime remains unsolved with none of the paintings recovered. This tragic robbery inspired A Discerning Eye [Cavan Bridge Press, October 13, 2020] a debut novel by Carol Orange, writer and fine arts consultant for over twenty years. The novel’s art heist mystery and high stakes international intrigue involves Interpol, the FBI, the Mafia, drug lords, and the daring, clever art dealer at the center: Portia Malatesta. As a Gardner docent Portia is devastated when she learns of the stolen pieces and becomes determined to help uncover their whereabouts. Skillfully, she constructs a psychological profile of the thief by analyzing a common thread in most of the stolen art. She suspects the mastermind behind it all is obsessed with the interaction of dark and light in both art and life. Orange believes, “There is an inherent tension between the shadowy and light sides of most people. Perhaps knowing or observing the shadowy side of life motivates painters to combine the portrayal of dark events with the hopeful promise of light.” When the FBI enlists Portia’s help in a sting operation to recover the stolen works of art, she goes on a dangerous trip to Colombia, where she’ll have to earn the trust of a notorious drug lord’s daughter. With everything at risk, Portia navigates the country’s underworld and uncovers a complicated web of politics and pride, where one misstep could have deadly consequences… Orange utilizes her vast art knowledge and experience working in Latin American to craft a fast-paced, deftly plotted mystery where the fate of several of the world’s most prized masterpieces are in one person’s hands. Fans of Donna Leon and John Le Carré will clamor for this action-packed tale filled with marital tensions, temptations, and twists and turns that will keep the reader guessing throughout. Drop In with us to learn about the inner workings of art crime and world class collectors and what makes it all tick!
Carol Orange has worked in the art world for more than twenty years. She began as a research editor on art books in London and later became an art dealer in Boston. She also worked as an advertising manager for South and Central American at Polaroid Corporation. She lived in Paris for two years, where she researched George Sand’s life and writing. Her short story “Delicious Dates” was included in Warren Adler’s 2010 short story anthology. Another story, “Close Call,” appeared in the Atherton Review volume 102. She currently lives in Chicago near her daughter and her family. A Discerning Eye is her debut novel. Drop in to meet Carol Orange!Leave a comment for radio show guests
What’s the story behind the story? We’ll find out on Dropping In. Our guests are today’s original thinkers. Conversations that spark new ways of seeing what’s going on. We bring it all to the table. Diverse perspectives, controversy, loving and singular voices. Magically stories reveal the common threads that link us. Experience the joys, the fist pumps, the detours and the hard-won truths of those who blaze the trail so that we might do the same and now here’s your host Diane Dewey.
Diane: Welcome to Dropping In everyone. It’s Good Friday for some and last weekend was Passover for others but for the art world there’s been one enduring constant for 31 years now, the mysterious robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston of 13 works of art valued at 500 million dollars which remains unsolved. With the current reward money of 10 million dollars for any credible lead to the recovery of the artworks by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Degas among others. This remains one of the most elusive art thefts ever. It’s the subject of a new novel, A Discerning Eye by our amazing guest Carol Orange. It’s published by Kevin Bridge Press. Welcome Carol. Great to have you with us.
Carol: Thank you Diane. It’s my pleasure to be here.
Diane: Congratulations on the great press Vanity Fair chimed in. It’s a book of great beauty and congratulations to you for your first debut novel.
Carol: Thank you so much. I appreciate it. I’m very excited about it.
Diane: You must about it. You’ve had quite an extensive resume. Carol Orange has worked in the art world for more than 20 years. She began as a research editor on art books in London and later became an art dealer in Boston. She also worked as an advertising manager for South and Central America at the Polaroid Corporation also involved in imagery right Carol? You’ve lived in Paris for two years where you researched George Sands life and writing. Her short story Delicious Dates was included in Warren Adler’s 2010 short story anthology. Another story Close Call appeared in the Atherton review. A Discerning Eye is your debut novel. Carol, such an interesting and multi-dimensional life. How would you describe yourself now that you’ve gone off sleuthing in the art world here this book?
Carol: Thank you. Thank you Diane. I think the first adjective I would use that myself is creative. I see myself as a creative problem solver. I am drawn to create the creative arts, art, music, ballet, theatre. I grew up in a suburb of New York in Westchester. I was very fortunate. My parents always brought me into Manhattan so that at a young age I would say maybe I started around six. I was brought to the metropolitan museum, to the museum of natural history. My mother took me to the opera to see Carmen and to the ballet. I was brought out in this household that was and there were always touched books. I would consider myself very creative. I’m also deeply committed. I have long-term friendships. My best friend and I go back to seven years old. We’ve remained close. We travel a lot together. I’m also committed to political causes. I have deep values about quality.
Then I am curious. I’m always curious. One of my favorite authors is Rainer Maria Rilke and his letter to a young poet has been something that I revere. I consider myself as Rilke says always a beginner. I’m always eager to learn new things. I’m not afraid to fail although failing certainly doesn’t feel good but I’m not afraid to do it because I know that we often learn from our mistakes. That’s how I would describe myself. I’m very honest but also I try to be nice.
Diane: Something of a risk taker. I think when you write a novel and put it out there that’s taking a big leap. The Rainer Maria Rilke is always such a fascinating poet to me as well. I mean he went through such an identity crisis. That’s what we talk about here. He was meant to be a girl. His mother desperately wanted him to be a girl. That’s why he was called Maria and he often had to identify himself as Maria. He grew up with this kind of split in his personality that became really interesting in terms of the way he looked at the world but I wondered if the way you looked at the world through Portia Malatesta, your protagonist in A Discerning Eye. She was living this kind of beautiful existence, a lucky existence as I would say yours was to be immersed in beauty by your family. Portia was also an art dealer in Boston, the main character.
Then she gets kind of sideways. She’s got the loss of her brother which rivets her. She and her brother always visited the Gardner Museum, sat in front of these works that have now gone missing. She then becomes enamored with the idea of fixing this, making it right. There I think when you say you have your values this sense of justice of trying to resolve this crime that’s plagued the art world now for over three decades. Do you think that you lived vicariously through your main character Portia?
Carol: Oh very definitely. I mean I think Portia is braver than I am but I definitely lived vicariously through Portia. I mean I loved the Gardner Museum when I moved to Boston. That was the place I always went to. I just thought Isabella Gardner was an amazing person to have put together this marvelous collection in her beautiful Venetian palazzo and make it available to the public. Yes, I definitely lived vicariously through Portia but I never, I did travel to Medellin, Colombia when I worked for Polaroid but I never would have gone to Medellin when the drug war at its worst which she did because she had to find those paintings.
Diane: We wouldn’t after some of the great films that have come out uh also on the drug cartels and everyone gets killed at the dinner table. No thanks but you were brave through Portia. You’re going to continue to be brave because there’s a sequel in the works. This will be fans of fans of A Discerning Eye among myself are included are grateful that there’s going to be more from Portia. You allude to the fact your friendship from the age that you were seven is so tender and sweet and there’s always it seems in this book something personal that anchors the eye or the motivation of Portia to solve the crime because of her beloved brother Antonio but also for the criminal right.
There’s a whole slew of theories of course of what happened to the Gardner Museum works. Some of them do attach to the personal. In your version there was an attachment to these works that was very personal from the villain. We won’t give spoiler alerts but do you believe as a person who’s actually studied psychology that there is somehow always a personal angle to these motivations on either side?
Carol: I believe not always but it definitely I believe in the Gardner and in some of the other art thefts that have happened. In Paris, I think it was last year or the year before there was a young man who was I believe from Bosnia. He stole art from the Musée d’Art Moderne. The arts that he stole were paintings that particularly appealed to him. I believe in certain cases of arts theft the art in and of itself means a lot to the person whose either stolen it themselves or is the mastermind. In other cases it’s just really random. I don’t understand all the motivations like The Scream has been stolen, The Scream has been stolen several times. The Scream personifies almost insanity so I don’t know why that particular painting would appeal to someone like I can’t fathom that. Then the Mona Lisa has been stalling a couple of times too but mostly I think the art thefts are random but I really believe in the case of the gardener that the particular paintings that were stolen appealed very deeply to the thief and also the mastermind.
Diane: I think something that you bring to light in the book that there was a selective process in those works while they were extraordinary. It’s Rembrandt’s only seascape for example. It’s also true that there were much more valuable works nearby that the thieves overlooked. In your analysis of the crime in A Discerning Eye you analyze the possible attraction which I thought was brilliant. There is this sort of interplay of light and shadow in all of the works. You delve into the mind of the criminal. We won’t give away too much but in the case of the Mona Lisa.
It was a person from Italy who didn’t believe that that work should have ever left Italy. When you say random that sort of alludes to you know just the money, the money factor but I was fascinated by the profile that you created of this criminal that the light and the shadow as a person who studied psychology again I have to go back to this. That Jung with the shadow side. Somehow that you feel in your bones that this person was dealing with some kind of dichotomy. Is that part of your theory?
Carol: Correct. They definitely had a hard time accepting for the shadowy side of themselves but when they saw it reflected in the artwork it just spoke internally to them in particular Monet’s Chez Tortoni where this gentleman, all dressed up in evening clothes is sitting in the cafe with half a glass wine on the table and half of his face in shadow. It’s like this is what, this is how they identified or he identified himself. He saw this and said I have to have this.
Diane: It’s compelling and especially because the Manet was on a different floor than the others. I mean I’ve been reading about this because it is gripping. Before the show went on I looked at the images again of these works and you’re absolutely right. I mean you have definitely cause for being hired by the FBI. I don’t know if they’ve reached out to you but they should at some point Carol. I mean what about with this book. You’ve done all this great I think really probing the mind of the criminal with this. The Manet, they said that the gallery actually the motion detectors, the only person that had been in that gallery was actually thought to be one of the guards. That’s another intriguing aspect of whether there was inside help meaning that not the guard, the guard was like a point person, hit man to steal the work for this acquisitive collector.
Is that why these works then have stayed underground so long. I read an interview that you did with Dig Boston. You said you thought they’d be recovered at some point. Do you really believed that this will happen and if so how so?
Carol: I do. I believe that this will happen because I believe that the progeny of the mastermind whoever has these works of art that the progeny at some point will realize what has happened and will want to restore the works to the Gardner Museum where they belong. I mean this has happened in Germany with Gurlitt whose father was a Nazi art dealer. He was the son of the Nazi art dealer and those works after he passed away, those works were restored to I hope to the original owners but certainly to Germany. There are examples of where this has happened. I would say it’s more my hope that the progeny would realize the sins of their father and want to bring the art back to the world where it belongs.
Diane: To make good to sort of, it’s like a sort of a resurrection it’s theme. I think that restitution is part of your thread going forward with Portia. The Gurlitt, that okay so that was like a trove of paintings that were like basically in a house that were hidden in a house.
Carol: Yes, they were in a house in Munich. I think there were like 150 works of art.
Diane: Amazing, amazing. Looted basically from the homes of Jewish people during The Holocaust. Absolutely and the dissolution of lives, treasures, memories, lives themselves. It’s symbolic to have them recovered and it’s symbolic to have them restored to the rightful owners. The Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which I know I’m sure you know was on the wall of a museum for heaven’s sake when it was finally identified. This is just a totally fascinating subject. It gives me goosebumps. I love that you’re going to pursue this doggedly. We have just a moment but just give us a quick yes or no. Portia is going to continue as a real life sleuth on and on we hope.
Carol: Well definitely there will be. I’m working on the second novel. I don’t know that it’s gonna be on and on. Yes to answer your question.
Diane: Well we’re excited because very few people who have taken on the subject know both worlds. You are an art world insider so that gives us a lot of information and depth of knowledge that we wouldn’t ordinarily have. We’re going to come back from a commercial break and when we do we’re going to talk more with Carol Orange about the hero’s journey you were writing with this book and that you’re going to continue taking with your protagonist Portia Malatesta. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
Become our friend on Facebook. Post your thoughts about our shows and network on our timeline. Visit facebook.com/VoiceAmerica.
She Writes Press is an independent publishing company founded for women writers everywhere. Together with sister company Spark Press serving men and women, it is both mission driven and community oriented. The aim is to serve writers who wish to maintain greater ownership and control of their projects while getting the highest quality editorial help possible, traditional distribution and an in-house marketing and publicity team. In 2019 She Writes Press was named Indie Publisher of the Year. You can find out more on shewritespress.com.
Stimulating talk, it gets those synapses in the brains firing really fast all the time. The number one internet talk station where your opinion counts voiceamerica.com
You are listening to Dropping In with Diane Dewey. We’d love to hear from you if you have a question or comment about the show. Send us an email to email@example.com. That’s the letter firstname.lastname@example.org. Now back to Dropping In.
Diane: Welcome back everyone. We’re here with Carol Orange whose book, A Discerning Eye takes a close look at an unsolved robbery at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston. 13 works, 500 million dollars, 10 million dollar reward for any substantive clues on the lead to the recovery of this artwork. Here we are three decades later with Carol, an art expert positing her own theories about why this might have happened. I think it’s so fascinating Carol. You’ve given us these characters. I think as an art dealer, the focus in the art world always seems to be on the big money, the kind of, the tech money that’s now in the art world not so much the individual effort that goes into making art and the very personal relationships that you cultivate as an art dealer that can go on for decades themselves knowing families who collect. I think the personal aspect then of these characters. During the break you mentioned the connection that people feel with some of them. Tell us what it’s like to bring a novel to life and have people identify with these characters.
Carol: That’s a great question. I think that most people, not all really identify with Portia Malatesta because Portia is complex. She’s multi-dimensional and she’s passionate. She’s also grieving. She’s had terrible losses in her life. None of us get through life without these awful losses that impact us but they identify with her because she wants to, her values are very authentic. She wants to restore what has been lost to a museum which anyone who goes to the Gardner Museum falls madly in love with it. It’s such a beautiful place. The fact that someone could defile it by stealing from it is just so horrific. Many of the readers, I would say most really identify with her.
I’ve had one or two people who didn’t like her because they thought well because she tended to be a little bit flirtatious. Her marriage was a little bit rocky. Again, I personally feel that’s more real and human but one or two readers were offended by that. They were more moralistic. With Carlos Alfonso, the young man who grew up poor in the barrio of Medellin, Colombia but marries the daughter of the leading drug lord. I was delighted when I heard from this men I know who actually used to be the maitre d, the opera, the Metropolitan Opera Cafe. I forgot the name of it but he’s in the hospitality industry. Carlos owns these hotels in Medellin.
Carlos is not evil. He has good and bad qualities. I mean he ends up being a criminal which is but he’s tortured by it. He’s not a sociopath. This young man who was in the hospitality industry told me oh, I just I just felt so sad about what happened to Carlos. I’ve had reader reactions to all those characters and some people have written me and said I want to know more about Antonio who was Portia’s younger brother. He committed suicide and so many people wanted to know more depth about Antonio but that would have been another story really. I mean it was what motivated Portia to get involved in helping to solve the art theft. So go ahead.
Diane: I mean I loved the rocky marriage myself. I thought first of all it impelled her to want to break out of the kind of boring constraint of her life because if you really got everything and you’re super happy about every single thing every day that’s not a good story. Like you need the motivation to, the incentive to want to join the FBI, go to a drug cartel in Medellin, get your life in danger and throw caution to the wind. She’s also got these great flirtations going on. I’m kind of like well he does seem more attractive than her husband. I mean so there’s I think you’re also creating dramatic tension there. She needs to have all this ambivalence but she’s definitely drawn to writing the wrong in the way that Carlos who’s the “bad guy” and I understand he’s a complex character too.
Here’s a family man. He steals this artwork in part because he’s drawn to it but also for his wife who’s a big art aficionado and collector to have this beauty in their home. That is one of the, that’s thought to be one of the common motivations. People want to covet works that they can’t get their hands on. They’re owned by museums so they steal them. This idea of possession and Carlos in the end you have him say to have risked his family for possessions that was where he went wrong. Do you think that that’s one of the takeaways from the book?
Carol: I do. I absolutely do is that he did after his marriage and his running the hotel successfully but having to be a consultant to Don Pedro Martinez who was the cartel leader he wanted something. He had a certain amount of hubris and he wanted things, objects that would make him feel that he was larger than life. This actually, this kind of motivation is not very different from Hermann Goring who had the same kind of, the art made him feel larger than life. It gave him a sense of importance. I lost my thought for a moment Diane.
Diane: Don’t worry. You were right. I think that acquisitiveness gives people a sense of power. Possession of these world treasures are now in the possession, they’re in your home or if it’s Hermann Goring, the warehouse that he’s building that he doesn’t carry he’s deprived people of their existence and these treasures. He has them now and that’s his maniacal megalomania and sadism as well but this sense of acquisition it’s also a legitimizing force. A lot of people feel if they have dirty money, if they’ve got blood on their hands but getting this artwork is gonna clean them up. Do you find that a motivation?
Carol: Totally. You said that so well. Yes, exactly. It makes them feel more worthwhile that if they can own this art that everyone wants and covets then they must be okay. They must be special actually. You said it very well. Thank you.
Diane: You’re welcome. I also look at the arc that you’ve carved out which I hope is true as you do that over time the people who felt special about having robbed art the next generation may be examining their conscience and saying, wait a minute. This doesn’t belong to us. What do you think has happened in these intervening decades? Have we gotten more enlightened and a better sense of values in some sort of undercurrent way? Is that part of your thinking?
Carol: Yes. I think that the children of people who have transgressed against society want to make up for it. Very often that’s the case. They want to restore the family honor. That’s what I think the motivation is. They realize that yes, I mean first of all they can’t sell the art. It’s too well known. They can’t possibly sell it. Why should they have it versus where it belongs? They want to restore family honor.
Diane: Themselves too, their wholeness. Their families honor for sure because look at Ronald Lauder, he acquires the Portrait of Adele Bloch-Bauer which was looted art. He acquired it at auction for 158 million dollars, the Klimt. This became one of the highest selling auction works at the time. Then he gave that money to the heirs, the family that owned this this work. I mean the money. He gave also, the canvas itself you can see. In other words the heirs earned that money by him purchasing it for that exorbitant amount, extraordinary amount at the time but I like what you’re saying that you feel as though somehow some of these wrongs are going to be righted.
Portia Malatesta she gets it going pretty, her arc, she does go on this hero’s journey. Do you feel that like a lot of us, we want to go on some kind of hero’s journey to write some of these wrongs? We have that vicarious feeling right now and we hear the courtroom testimony in George Floyd’s murder trial. You’ve got EMTs who were told not to revive this person. Isn’t there part of us that wants to get up and do something about things we feel helpless about? Talk to us about that.
Carol: For sure. I think so. I think that a large percentage of the population really feels that way, really wants to right the wrongs that have been done. To see George Floyd murdered on television. It was similar to watching villages burning in Vietnam on your television set. To watch this inhumane act and all of us, not all of us unfortunately but a large percentage of people are outraged at this kind of behavior. We can’t sit back and just watch it happen. We have to do something. I think it affects lots of people. Even though we’re still in a pandemic people get out and march to have their voices heard or vote because we want those wrongs to be righted. It’s an appeal to our better self and we can’t be complacent. We have to do something to make our society fairer, more equal. It benefits everyone living in a society like that.
Diane: It’s an impulse that you examine in your book which I think gives it just that much more juice, that much more momentum this righting wrongs, restitution, recovery of some wholeness that we need to feel because we feel really blotted and stained by the past, by history. I mean it doesn’t seem to have like all that much to do with art but it does because as you say there you were as a child six years old in a museum at the Metropolitan looking at artworks with your mother. What could be more tender? Then at the Gardner, the frames are still there, the works are missing. It’s the absence. It’s something we have to fill that void. I think that you’re really talking about your personal understanding of that as a kind of evolution of what needs to happen. You are now going to embark on a story of restitution which I give you a lot of credit. How long did it take you to write A Discerning Eye?
Carol: Well I had a full-time job while I was writing it. It did take me 10 years. I wrote intermittently it but the story was with me. I’m still involved with my writing group at the Met New York Society Library which is a very special and wonderful place. We would meet every month and I went through lots of revisions. I mean writing is revision, revision, revision. It took me longer than I would have liked because I had a full-time job but now for my second novel I think, I’m hoping it’s only going to take two years because I can really focus on it.
Diane: You’re also I think yes, you’ll have some of those tracks covered but like who does art belong to if it’s in the public domain. We go to these places, these
Sanctuaries to get away from our lives and then those works are taken. We have to take a break ourselves right now. Don’t go away. We’ll be right back on Dropping In.
Voice America is on your favorite smart speaker. If you have Alexa or Google Home go ahead and give us a try. Hey Alexa play Finding Your Frequency Podcast on TuneIn.
Books Forward exemplifies excellence in book marketing and promotion representing New York Times bestsellers, national award winning books and books that catch fire on social media and in the digital realm. Books Forward creates ambitious campaigns with unlimited possibilities for sparking buds while creatively cutting through the noise. Your book deserves to launch with experts who have set the bar in the industry. To learn more visit booksforward.com or send us an email at email@example.com, a JKS communications company.
Streaming live the leader in internet talk radio voiceamerica.com.
You are listening to Dropping In with Diane Dewey. We’d love to hear from you if you have a question or comment about the show. Send us an email to firstname.lastname@example.org. That’s the letter email@example.com. Now back to Dropping In.
Diane: Welcome back everyone. Sorry if I dropped off rather than dropped in there for a minute. This 10 million dollar reward for information leading to the safe recovery of the Gardner Museum’s stolen art. It’s an enticement. There’s lots of theories right Carol? We’re sitting here with Carol Orange, author of A Discerning Eye. I hope that you don’t feel fearful of the drug cartels because you got them sort of implicated in the novel but it is fiction. What are some of the ideas about what did happen in the Gardner Museum Heist?
Carol: Several known Boston people were thought to be involved. Whitey Bulger was one of them. He was a mafia boss in South Boston and he was kind of ruthless. He was considered as one of the possible people. I mean the mafia definitely had some involvement. We don’t know exactly but Whitey Bulger had gone to California with his girlfriend and was living under other names. He was captured by the FBI and was imprisoned and he was killed in prison.
The other person who was suspect and still in a way is Miles Connor. He is a very unusual guy. He’s out of prison now but he was in prison at the time of the robbery. He has both sort of local Boston background but he also on I think his mother’s side is descended from the American Revolution. He has both sort of suggest qualities but also blue blood qualities. He’s very sly. He had stolen a Rembrandt from the Museum of Fine Arts which is very close to the Gardner. They’re physically very close.
He used the stolen Rembrandt. Oh he loved the art and he used the stolen Rembrandt as a get out of jail free card. He’s been known to steal art and he bragged that he was involved with the Gardner from prison. Anthony Amore, who’s the current head of security at the Gardner Museum is in pretty close contact right now with Miles Connor but I don’t know. I think he’s just such a character. I think he would like to think that he was involved with the Gardner Robbery but if he had been it would have been discovered by now.
Diane: Fascinating. That’s fascinating. I mean it’s so also localized. It seems as though the artworks went Philadelphia, maybe Connecticut but no far. It’s so tantalizing. You began your research career early on when you were a research editor on art books in London. How do you think that played into your experience, your current experience?
Carol: Well I felt so privileged to have this position working for a British publishing company on art books. I worked on the book of Spanish art. My advisor was Xavier Desales. He was attached to the Spanish consulate at the time but he later became the director of The Prado. I got to know him and he was really an amazing man. His son had been killed in the Algerian War. He was fighting for the Algerians and he was killed. Xavier Desales was a very deep person. His interpretation of Spanish art and his commitment to art really, I mean it was palpable. I think he had a profound influence on me. I was 21 at the time that I met him. Actually when my daughter was three years old and we were living in Spain for the summer I had to bribe her with a flamenco dress to accompany me to the Prado so that I could meet Xavier Desales and show her, three years old, which was a little too young the magnificent Las Meninas and some of the Goyas and meet this wonderful man.
Diane: I mean they’re so legendary these characters and you also saw the multi-layers of motivation to be so passionate about art. Did it take with your daughter? Was she imprinted as well?
Carol: Yes. She studied art history at college and she spent her junior year in Rome and wrote her thesis portraiture in the Renaissance.
Diane: Wonderful. You began by saying you’re creative. You also took a detour and went to Paris for a couple of years researching George Sand. I think to myself is it because of feminism, her writing. I mean this is another nom de bloom for a woman. Is it because she was a salonist? She had this incredible salon? What were your motivations to do that pursuing that?
Carol: In Paris I lived in the Rue Daniel Stern and I asked my peers and friend who was that. It turns out that he was Marie d’Agoult who was a Comtesse and also a writer and the lover of Franz Liszt. I became very fascinated with Marie d’Agoult and that led me to George Sand and Chopin and the 19th Century in Paris which was really the center of the creative world at the time, the romantic era with Victor Hugo and Eugène Delacroix and Sand appealed to me because she was a novelist and because she, in her lifetime, I mean it’s just amazing. She wrote a hundred books. I don’t know how she did it.
She wrote 20 pages a day long hand of course no matter what else was going on in her life. That’s like wow. What appealed to me about her was that against all odds she managed to live this rich, creative life. She was a survivor and a creator and also helped other people at the same time. I mean she wrote oh I don’t know thousands of letters. She was friendly with Flaubert who later in her life and he called her, I mean I think Flaubert is one of the greatest writers of all time. He called her master, you are the master of writing. That’s what fascinated me about George Sand is that she had a very traumatic childhood. Her father died when she was I think three years old. She was in this, her grandmother who was from the aristocracy didn’t like her mother who was the daughter of a bird seller in Paris. She was pulled between these two women. I don’t know how she managed to make a life, a wonderful life for herself.
Diane: She juggled a lot of plates. I came across Victor Hugo’s quote at her funeral. In this country whose law is to complete the French Revolution and begin that of equality of the sexes being part of the equality of men a great woman was needed. It was necessary to prove that a woman could have all the manly gifts without losing her angelic qualities, to be strong without ceasing, to be tender. George Sand proved it. I think there’s something to that in your motivations and your kind of character as well. There’s this determination, there’s this mission, sense of mission and yet there are these tender relationships. You’ve taken on a lot of hidden, you’ve speculated and taken on a lot of challenges about hidden works of art, hidden mysteries, trying to solve things. Talk about just in terms of telling our listeners, how much art say of any given museum are we seeing in a permanent collection at any given time?
Carol: I think in the major museums we’re only seeing I would, this is purely a guess half of the art that they own. You worked at the Guggenheim so you probably know more about this than I do but that’s my guess. What do you think?
Diane: Well I started at the Guggenheim in 1990, the year that the Gardner Heist took place. Of course my hair stood at end to think that that could happen and but as it turns out there are a lot of unreported art thefts that go on because if it comes off the walls in the public rooms you’ve got to report it obviously. You should report it anyway but museums feel a number of things embarrassment. They might be on to like an inside job that if they say something then that scares off the person and they’re trying to capture that person.
I think these days you’re probably right. We’ve got these big art spaces. Museums are annexing their building and so yes, it’s closer to half but in those days it was as little as 5% to 10%. A lot of art is in storage so a lot of the thefts that go on might even be hidden from us. An extra layer of mystery but Carol you’ve just done I think a wonderful favor for all of us to not be afraid. You’ve taken a lot of your own knowledge and converted it into something that’s really I think inspiring to us by reading A Discerning Eye. Do you have any other thoughts that you’d like to share with us, our listeners. We’ve just got a few minutes left believe it or not.
Carol: Well thank you Diane. This has been so much fun, such a pleasure to talk with you. I really, really appreciate it. Okay I mean my big wish is that, I mean I believe that great art should be seen by the public. I know that lots of collectors ultimately donate their art to museums which is wonderful. The Frick, Neiman Collection at the MET. I think that’s a tradition that I truly value and it’s wonderful but I think the public needs to see great art. I mean take Guernica, Picasso’s Guernica. I used to spend hours looking at that in the Museum of Modern Art in New York and unfortunately I can’t do that anymore because it is where it belongs in Spain but that painting is so profound. It’s against war. The public needs to see that because it really tells you what the horrors of war are and why we need to avoid unnecessary wars.
Diane: It’s a statement and I think that impulse that you’re talking about, that generosity of collectors to share art with the public is so important. A lot of economic forces disrupt that sometimes. Carol, another I think brilliant observation from you. Thank you for being with us. For more information visit carolorange.com. Spelled exactly the way you might think. It’s a great name. Connect with her on twitter at COrangeAntiques or Instagram carolorange2. Thanks so much for being with us. Thanks to our engineers Matt Weidner and Aaron Keller, to our executive producer Robert Giolino and most of all to you our listeners. Remember to stay safe and if you hear something say something. Report any clues to the FBI. Could be worth 10 million dollars. No really. Crime does not pay but honesty does. Till next week. Thank you so much for dropping in.
Thank you so much for dropping in. Please join Diane Dewey again next Friday at 8 AM Pacific Time and 11 AM Eastern Time on the Voice America Variety Channel. We’ll see you then.