Meet the Sherlock Holmes of the Art World

Art detectives aren’t fictional characters that Hollywood movie writers make up. Real-life detective, Christopher Marinello seeks out and recovers stolen art on a truly grand scale. Marinello, born and raised in Brooklyn New York, started his career as a lawyer, specializing in art title disputes. He now travels the world, recovering millions of dollars’ worth of stolen art.

As the founder of London-based Art Recovery International, Marinello has solved art mysteries and recovered works by some of history’s most notable artists. Along with modern-day art heists, he has found and brought back stolen World War II era works, taken by the Nazis.

Sherlock Holmes of the Art World

Christopher Marinello with a stolen Matisse painting taken from a Swedish museum in 1987.

How does Marinello solve these art mysteries? In some cases, tips help him to track down the missing works. In 2014 Marinello received a tip from a source calling himself ‘Darko’. The tip claimed that a Los Angeles art thief had stolen works by artists such as Diego Rivera and Mark Chagall. The LA police and FBI used the tip to jump-start an undercover sting. The result? Nine artworks with a total value of $10 million were recovered.

Marinello doesn’t just solve the most current art crimes. He recovered a Braque almost four decades after its original theft. Some of his cases are even older. These often include Nazi-era thefts. After finding millions of dollars of paintings in home owned by the son of a Nazi art dealer, Marinello was able to facilitate the return of priceless pieces such as Henri Matisse’s 1921 Femme Assise.

Marinello and Matisse

Marinello with Nazi loot: Henri Matisse’s 1921 Femme Assise.

Why are some of Marinello’s cases old and seemingly cold? It’s not from lack of work. Without detailed documentation, locating and verifying the works is often a challenge. Couple this with uncooperative ‘owners’ of the stolen works, and bringing home these priceless pieces is far from easy. One advantage that art detectives like Marinello have is technology. Art Recovery Group’s Art Claim website is the most technologically advanced privately-owned database of its kind on the planet. With high-definition image recognition software and the ability to use over 500 searchable fields, Art Claim (and their sleuthing experts) are helping put art back in its place. Art Recovery Group has helped rightful owners to recover works such as Paul Manship’s Central Figure of Day and Henri Martin’s impressionist Vue Generale de Saint Cirq Lapopie.

With art theft on the rise, technology such as Art Claim and pros such as Marinello are becoming necessities. Marinello and his colleagues are helping to combat the growing number of criminal heists, forgeries and faked works that are becoming an increasing plague on the art world.

About the Author

Erica Loop has a BA in the history of art and architecture as well as film studies. She has worked for the Andy Warhol Museum and the Carnegie Museum of Art. Ms. Loop has taught studio-based art classes for children from toddlers to teens for the past decade along with writing freelance content across the web.