Stealing Picasso

Anson Cameron

Stealing Picasso
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Stealing Picasso

Anson Cameron

Harry Broome dreams of being a famous painter. And when a sophisticated French beauty buys all the paintings at his first exhibition, he knows he’s on his way. But in the art world nothing is as it seems. Before long, to pay his debts and save his reputation, he is trapped in a plot to steal Picasso’s Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria.

She is the gallery’s greatest acquisition, and when she goes missing the city’s many treasure hunters come out to find her: a corrupt tycoon who knew Picasso, a gay escort obsessed with Michael Jackson, a bent barrister, a gang of bikies, a hit man, the gallery director, the Minister for Police. The Weeping Woman is priceless and life is cheap.

Stretching from pre-war France to contemporary Australia, with a captivating cast of eccentric characters and a superbly engaging plot, Stealing Picasso tells of an art theft - which is based on a true story - and a forgery and their extraordinary repercussions.

Review

Anson Cameron’s fifth novel is a playful homage to Melbourne’s most infamous art heist, the theft of a Picasso from the NGV in 1986 by a group known as Australian cultural terrorists. Heads almost rolled in high places until ‘greenface’ turned up two weeks later in locker 227 at Spencer Street station. Phew.

Unlike Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’, who cries for Fascist atrocities committed during the Spanish Civil War, Cameron’s ‘Weeping Woman’ cries for more carnal reasons. And so the re-imagined plot to steal her is a steamy one, with a curious love triangle of cultural terrorists at its centre. Stealing Picasso’s satirical take on the art world’s shonkier practices is bound to set tongues wagging about the relationship between art and money.

Cameron cheekily asserts that all artists are thieves (presumably he’d throw himself into this category given his appropriation of the subject matter) but while his fantastical back story is undeniably saucy and amusing, it’s perhaps not as intriguing as the real-life premise, which after 23 years remains unanswered: just who did steal the Picasso from the NGV?

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