Praise for Possession

"'Collecting is a curious behavior.' With this unassailable thesis, Erin L. Thompson begins her riveting investigation...fascinating... treasure trove of a book... absorbing and bizarre... Possession is more than an antiquarian romp."—Willard Spiegelman, Wall Street Journal

"This slim volume is just bursting with read-them-to-a-friend anecdotes of collectors who'd stop at nothing. . . . Art is passion; Thompson understands. . . . The marvelous Possession offers a savvy history of passion as politics, a delightful collection of collectors and a love of art that might just send you to a museum."—Genevieve Valentine, NPR Books; named an NPR Best Book of 2016

"Timely and immensely enjoyable; . . . a cavalcade of history’s most ardent lovers of the antique. . . . Thompson’s brilliantly told tales create a sparkling tableau that invites further reflection on the politics of even the most solipsistic collectors."—James Delbourgo, The Atlantic Online

As America’s only full-time professor of art crime, I study the damage done to humanity’s shared heritage through looting, theft, and the deliberate destruction of art. I have discussed art crime topics in, e.g., The New York Times, CNN, NPR, and the Freakonomics podcast, and have been invited to lecture at MIT, Carnegie Mellon, and Columbia. My book, Possession: The Curious History of Private Collectors, is now out from Yale University Press.

I am also interested in the legalities and ethics of digital reproductions of cultural heritage, as well as art made by detainees at the United States military prison camp known as Guantánamo Bay; I curated an exhibit of this artwork in 2017-18.  

I can be reached at