In a fascinating must-read from GQ by writer Michael Finkel, the seemingly stranger-than-fiction tale of Stéphane Breitwieser—from his very first heist to a 2018 museum visit that brought his life full circle—is detailed alongside comments from the notorious art thief himself.
"Looking at something beautiful, I can't help but weep," Breitwieser said of his relationship with art, particularly pieces crafted prior to the Industrial Revolution. "There are people who do not understand this, but I can cry for objects."
Breitwieser, born in 1971 in northeastern France, first took an antique pistol from a museum in Thann in the wake of his parents' divorce when he was 22. Around the same time, he met and fell in love with Anne-Catherine Kleinklaus, who—as with his mother—has not spoken to the press about any of these events. From there, Breitwieser persisted by showing up at the Zurich art fair, Belgian museums, and elsewhere to continue adding to a collection he kept in an attic bedroom he shared with Kleinklaus. One piece of particular personal importance to Breitwieser is an Adam and Eve ivory sculpture that, as you'll find out, has endured quite the life journey.
All told, per GQ, Breitwieser successfully procured a collection of breathtaking pieces with a total estimated value of more than $1.4 billion. Though he and Kleinklaus allegedly had a (*SPOILER ALERT*) few close calls over the years, nothing detrimental was levied against the art thievery habit until years later. Detection during Breitwieser's lucrative visits, which never involved weapons or violence of any kind, was staved off thanks to a meticulous surveying of his surroundings and a well-maintanenaced knowledge of the art world at large.
Anyway, read the fantastic full piece—which includes a knockout (hint: it involves a body of water) of an ending—right here.