Portrait of a Thief: A Novel

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Art Is Not a Neutral Act


At Crime Reads, Grace D. Li discusses her debut novel, Portrait of a Thief, which follows a group of Chinese Americans as they pull off a heist to reclaim priceless Chinese art. “It can be all too easy to view art as a neutral act, or museums as institutions that solely preserve history instead of shape it,” she says. “In Portrait of a Thief, I wanted to challenge the presence of looted art in museums. Why is it acceptable to keep stolen art, especially when its country of origin has already asked for it back? Why do Western institutions assume they can better preserve, display, or educate about pieces that doesn’t belong to them? The art world is awaiting long overdue change, and I hope my book can help push that forward.”

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