tv The Colbert Report Comedy Central August 4, 2011 1:46pm-1:59pm PDT
counseling for abuse. are we going to do pedicures and man cure, as well? >> stephen: thank you finally a woman agrees with me that those are just frivolous impulse buys. you know the ladies, they're always pumping out breast milk, getting a mani pedi, having a cosmo with their abuse counselor and then pick up some sperp side. this is why we must repeal obama care and get back the insurance companies covering only real, necessary medical expenses like boner bills. how else are we supposed to sexually satisfy the army of flesh-thirsty young sluts obama is creating with your tax dollars? we'll be right back. [cheering and applause] >> welco.
thank you very much. my guest tonight recovers stolen paintings and found the f.b.i.'s national art crime scene. i hear a lot of the suspects have been framed. please welcome robert k. wittman. [cheering and applause] hey mr. wittman, thank you so much for coming on. >> thank you. >> stephen: okay. you've got a fascinating job. you are a former senior investigator and founder of the f.b.i.'s arts crime team. during 20 years of your career there, you recovered more than 225 million dollars worth of stolen art and cultural property. now you've got your own firm, robert whitman incorporated, and your memoir is called "priceless." okay. how does one become an investigator in art crime? they say it takes a thief. are you a cat burglar turned good? >> new york i think what you have to do is you have to have a real deep understanding and love
of art. i think that that helps. and then also you have to have an understanding of the art business. because, you know, when we talk about art and art history, you know, people know the stories of rembrandt, and they know the stories of renoir and monet and being blind and that type of thing, but that's not what we do when we talk about art crime. art crime is all about the art business and the business of art and how to make a deal in the art world. >> stephen: how is art crime committed because, you know, from the movies, you see, you know, a grid of lasers and catherine zeta-jones puts on a skin-tight suit and somehow showing her butt helps get her through the grid. i mean, is it that or do guys just come in and snatch stuff off the wall? >> in 20 years of doing these investigations with f.b.i., most of the time it's the guys coming in and snatching the things off the wall. >> stephen: so art museums don't have like the giant doors that come closing down that hit you in the neck?
>> i've never seen the doors that come together and close up. american museums have excellent security. some of the best security in the world are in american museum, but when you look at museums in new york and outside of this country, it leaves a lot to be desired. the reason for that is because it's very difficult to integrate these good security systems into museums that are hundreds of years old. the castles in france, the castles in germany, very, very hard to defend and secure. >> stephen: you ever go into a museum, look at a piece of art and go, i could steal that? >> i actually don't look at it that way. i think that when i go... [laughter] when i see these places, i have gone into museums around the world in hungary and in romania and what not, and i've seen really bad security. and i just feel bad about it. i wish that there was enough funds to be able to support that. the problem is that security is not something that museums want to pay for because it's not the sexy part.
the sexy part of a museum is exhibits and it's putting up the artwork. >> stephen: let's talk about the unit itself. does the f.b.i. take art theft seriously? i mean, do you guys in the art group, do you have to sit at your own nerdy art table at lunch. >> when i was... i retired in 2008, and i started the team in 2005. we had eight agents at the time. today i'm happy to say there are 13 agents at the f.b.i. who are trained in art theft investigation. so they obviously do take it seriously. they are going in the right direction. >> stephen: let's take a look at some of the stuff you've been able to recover. jim will put up the first picture. what is this? >> this is a wonderful piece calle "the swin home in madr in 2001. >> stephen: where did you find that? >> we were able to cover that in the boot of a car, which is the trunk of a car, as they were doing negotiations trying to
sell the paintings to me. we were making a deal. >> stephen: to you? now do you have like a mustache and a beret? like what... do you have to look like a pretentious a-hole when you go to recover in the art world and always have a half-formed glass of chardonnay in your hand? let's look at the next one. this is probably the biggest find that you made. what is this? >> well, financially speaking, this is a recommend bran self-portrait stolen by gunpoint at the swedish national museum in stockholm. that was done in 2000. another undercover operation in copenhagen in 2005. >> so you traveled the world? >> yes. >> you're like renee russo in "the thomas crown affair." and i'm sure you look just as good in a lace dress. thank you so much for joining me. >> thank you. >> stephen: robert wittman. the book is "priceless." we'll be right back.
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