SpyCast 12.5.23
Ep 614 | 12.5.23

“The Most Famous Art Detective in the World” – with ex-FBI Legend Robert Wittman

Show Notes


Robert Wittman (Website; Twitter) joins Andrew (TwitterLinkedIn) to discuss his career and the FBI’s Art Crime Team. Bob recovered over $300 million worth of stolen art and cultural property over the course of his career. 

What You’ll Learn


  • How the FBI’s Art Crime Team (ACT) was formed
  • The intelligence angle when investigating provenance
  • Living and working undercover abroad
  • Museums & Intelligence


  • The importance of cultural property
  • Questions of ownership and belonging

And much, much more …

Episode Notes

This week on SpyCast, Andrew was joined by Robert Wittman, a retired FBI Special Agent who has been dubbed “the most famous art detective in the world.” Bob was instrumental in the creation of the Art Crimes Team, a highly skilled unit tasked with locating and recovering stolen art and cultural property from around the world. Within his 20-year career with the FBI, Bob traveled undercover around the world and helped bring home millions of dollars’ worth of priceless pieces. In this episode, Andrew and Bob discuss the intelligence components of the FBI’s Art Crimes Unit, and the importance of this work to the museum world and beyond. 


Just like the FBI has a Top 10 Most Wanted, there is a Top 10 Art Crimes of stolen masterworks still out there waiting to be located. On the list is a piece from one of Erin’s favorite museums, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. 

Quotes of the Week

“The motivation for writing the book was to get the word out how important cultural heritage is. It really is important to make the public realize that this is an important program that should be supported by law enforcement both local and federal.” – Robert Wittman. 



*Featured Resource*

  • Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, R. Wittman (Crown Publishing, 2011)


*Beginner Resources*



  • The Devil's Diary: Alfred Rosenberg and the Stolen Secrets of the Third Reich, R. Wittman & D. Kinney (Harper Paperbacks, 2017)
  • Stealing Rembrandts: The Untold Stories of Notorious Art Heists, A. M. Amore & T. Mashberg (St. Martin’s Griffin, 2012)
  • The Gardner Heist: The True Story of the World's Largest Unsolved Art Theft, U. Boser (Harper Paperbacks, 2010) 



Primary Sources 

*Wildcard Resource*

  • Can you identify famous pieces and artists like an art detective?
  • Take this Google Arts & Culture quiz to see if you’re cut out for the job!