The Curse of Van Gogh
“. . . a thriller. . . on the lengths men will go to in order to possess something intangible: the creation of beauty . . .”
It’s the fall of 1999; the new millennium is fast approaching, and former art thief Tyler Sears has just been presented with a life-threatening choice.
“. . . an invitation to an art opening. Not just any opening, to the posh inauguration of the new lobby of the Trans-pacific building . . . the hottest ticket in town . . .”
Currently on parole after being caught following his last heist that cost him not only a portion of his life behind bars but also the girl he might’ve spent the rest of that life with, Tyler has sworn never again to break the law. As a two-time loser, he can’t afford another arrest, and he’s going straight in spite of the temptations.
He’s working as a bartender at a place called the Art Bar in Tribeca, quite literally minding his Ps and Qs, and well-aware the Interpol agent who arrested him is watching and waiting for him to make another wrong move.
“. . . the old man knew Tyler would try something stupid, and . . . it’d be three strikes, and hello Life, parole in twenty.”
The latest temptation comes in the form of Komate Imasu, art collector, businessman, billionaire, and it involves one of the most famous paintings in the world.
“ . . . Mr. Sears, you are considered an expert in your field . . . your knowledge of art is second to none . . . it’s your unique ability at acquisitions I wish to employ . . .”
Tyler is given an envelope containing a photo of the painting Imasu wishes to acquire.
“. . . he found himself staring at what was probably the most famous painting of all time. Volumes had been written about it. Songs honoring it. . . . Tyler’s eyes shut and all was a blur as he felt himself blacking out . . .”
Tyler decides to decline. Imasu begs to differ, and in a carefully veiled threat inquires about the health of Tyler’s brother and his widowed mother, and drops a bombshell. . .
“. . . Imasu was the one who got him out? . . . The last three years were a blur. The parole hearing. The snarling warden. . . . all the money he’d paid his lawyer . . . all of it a foregone conclusion . . . he tried to regain his composure.”
Faced with his family’s safety and his own return to jail forever if he’s caught, Tyler hatches an outrageous plan he believes Imasu will accept. The answer’s in the ARTnews, an exhibit of the most famous paintings in history, an end-of millennium showing of the greatest 100 paintings of the last 1,000 years.
“ His solution to Imasu was staring at him in black and white . . . an idea so outrageous no one, no matter how rich, would dare it. Tyler believed his freedom from Imasu was imminent. And this time he’d be in the driver’s seat.”
His counteroffer to Imasu appeals to the billionaire’s greed.
“In lieu of a single piece, I propose to acquire a dozen extraordinary paintings . . . The plan is mine to know, but for you it means an entire masters collection: Monet, Cézanne, Renoir, Gauguin, and van Gogh.”
His only worry is if he can pull it off.
Armed with desperate faith in his own ability, Tyler sets his plan into motion, and then the girl he lost comes back into his life.
“. . . his brain began to flood with images . . . Paris . . the Seine . . . that KISS . . . it was definitely her he’d dreamt about in D Block, cell 24 . . .”
Now Tyler has even more reason not to get caught—and to stay alive.
This is definitely a thriller but it’s also an art history lesson, on the lengths men will go to in order to possess something intangible: the creation of beauty. Whether or not the van Gogh portrait does have a curse, it’s an emotion-evoking work and many have striven to possess it, as well as the other paintings mentioned in the story.
Tyler is a man who has held that beauty in his hands, if only briefly, and he knows its value as well as its danger. The Curse of Van Gogh is a taut, tense tale of a man forced to return to a life of crime when all he wants is to have his girl and a relatively Happily Ever After.