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Publisher's Summary

When he retired as the chief security officer of New York City's Metropolitan Museum of Art, John Barelli had spent the better part of 40 years responsible not only for one of the richest treasure troves on the planet, but the museum's staff, the millions of visitors, as well as American presidents, royalty, and heads of state from around the world. 

For the first time, John Barelli shares his experiences of the crimes that occurred on his watch, the investigations that captured thieves and recovered artwork, the lessons he learned and shared with law enforcement professionals in the United States and abroad, the accidents and near misses, and a few mysteries that were sadly never solved. He takes listeners behind the scenes, introduces curators and administrators, walks the empty corridors after hours, and shares what it's like to get the call that an ancient masterpiece has gone missing. 

The Metropolitan Museum covers 12 acres in the heart of Manhattan and is filled with 5,000 years of work by history's great artists known and unknown: Goya, da Vinci, Rembrandt, Warhol, Pollack, Egyptian mummies, Babylonian treasures, Colonial crafts, and Greek vases. Over the years, John helped make the museum the state-of-the-art facility it is today and created a legacy in art security for decades to come. 

Focusing on six thefts but filled with countless stories that span the late 1970s through the 21st century, John opens the files on thefts, showing how museum personnel along with local and sometimes federal agents opened investigations and more often than not caught the thief. But of ultimate importance was the recovery of the artwork, including Celtic and Egyptian gold, French tapestries, Greek sculpture, and more. At the heart of this audiobook there will always be art - those who love it and those who take it, two groups of people that are far from mutually exclusive.

©2019 John Barelli (P)2019 Blackstone Publishing

Critic Reviews

"With his deep, authoritative voice, Mack Sanderson is the perfect narrator for this memoir by the former chief security officer of New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art. He is so believable that at times listeners may believe they're hearing the author himself as he recounts his experiences on the job.... Listeners will learn much about the psychology of the art thief - whether art lover, opportunist, or professional." (AudioFile magazine)

What listeners say about Stealing the Show

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The voice

The incredibly beautiful voice made the book so much more interesting. It was wonderful. Loved it!

7 people found this helpful

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True crime story--in a museum

Very interesting to hear all that has gone on for years to insure the valuable art at Met NYC.

5 people found this helpful

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A welcome viewpoint

Wonderful insight into the world of high stakes security and invaluable art collections. Loved it!

4 people found this helpful

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Fascinating Subject Brilliantly Executed

Art theft; the subject of clever books and marvelous movies is no less fascinating when told by the man who acted as the chief nemesis of the ingenious crooks and desperate insiders who would steal the priceless treasures of the Metropolitan Museum.

With one chapter titled, “So You Want to be an Art Thief?”, the book is light enough to be accessible but it’s not lightweight. Mr. Barelli is a serious professional and he describes in masterful detail the real events behind the Global headlines as well as thefts and losses never reported. I enjoyed the stories of the priceless artifacts for which Mr. Barelli’s team was responsible, but the scenes I found most moving were his descriptions of several of the Met’s most famous visitors whose safety he guarded with exquisite care.

The insights are as thoughtful as the tales are entertaining and Stealing the Show is an engaging pleasure but the finishing touch that makes this magic is the narrator. Mack Sanderson is mesmerizing; with a voice that captures both the wit and the gravitas of the story, he turns this wonderful set of stories an objet d’art. I’m a voracious reader and have never thought that listening to a narrator could match the joy of reading a great book but I think in this case, I’d recommend the audio version of Stealing the Show.

3 people found this helpful

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Not what I expected

A light read on the experiences of the Metropolitan Museum’s Security chief. Not really about the history of art or art crime. More about his own experiences dealing with damaged art, stolen art, visiting heads of state, and other security concerns at the Met. Well enough in its way, but not what the title suggests it to be. It’s not a book I would listen to a second time.

2 people found this helpful

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Fascinating insider story of Met Museum

Compelling true story of art thefts solved and unsolved, and behind-the-scenes accounts of the Met gala, Alexander McQueen and other blockbuster shows at the Met. Good read and terrific narration.

2 people found this helpful

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  • K.
  • 06-07-21

Fascinating

A fascinating look behind the scenes of a great museum where the author was head of security for many years. There were a few dry sections, and sometimes the author's ego is on display, but his background, training and experience is riveting. Art theft is always interesting and Barelli analyzes the motivations behind it. His encounters with world leaders were interesting too.

1 person found this helpful

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"When a Thief Kisses You... Count Your Teeth"

Stealing the Show: A History of Art and Crime in Six Thefts by John Barelli is a very solid take on a fascinating subject. This book exceeded my expectations. The writing is very good. The book is focused on making a complicated subject easy to follow and understand. Art theft is broken down and discussed as it occurs in real life and also in terms of the patterns and motivations behind art theft as a behavior.

I would recommend this book to anyone who has an interest in learning more about art theft specifically, and also security and loss prevention, in general. This book has a narrow focus and it will appeal greatly to its niche audience.

The narration by Mack Sanderson matches the material beautifully. The reader really gets a sense of who the writer is and where he is coming from based on the narrative performance.

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Stealing the show is an amazing read

If you’re interested in The Metropolitan Museum this is a fantastic read. Intrigue, art, security, celebrity visits. I highly recommend this book!

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Stolid and pretty I exciting

Still this is a bread and butter account of backstage at the museum. The six thefts are of a scholarly worthy but unexciting level. A workmanlike accounting of a security officer’s day to day. A bit boring. Needs color and better writing. The voice goes with the granola like substance here.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Philippa Martin
  • 05-02-20

a collection of anecdotes

quite intersting recounting of the best dinner table stories from the career of the head of security at the met. New York.

1 person found this helpful

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  • Doodlebug
  • 08-07-21

Misleading Title

It's interesting, but it's a very bait-and-switch title - if you want a history of art and crime in six thefts then I would not recommend this book; if you want a biography of the head of security for the New York Met then crack on, this is what you're looking for, it's well read and will scratch that itch. It's just *not* what it says it is. As just one example of what I'm talking about, he spends a significant amount of time talking about being a bodyguard to Princess Diana on a visit to the Met, and how sad she was about being unable to enjoy her visit, and her wanting to get gameboy games for her sons, and how much he wishes he could have been there in Paris to protect her... Nothing was stolen. There was no art theft at any point in said visit, it's just a rambling anecdote about his life, and one of many that have nothing to do with art thefts.

Luckily I listened to it on the Audible Plus scheme; if I'd bought it I'd be returning it with deep annoyance.

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  • Mitchell W.
  • 07-04-20

worthwhile and repeat listen worthy!

Excellent story and well narrated and interesting subject matter. Have recommended to a work colleague in the arts and antiquities field.