"As a writer Gary Vikan has three virtues hardly ever found together. He genuinely loves art and is extraordinarily erudite on the subject; he cares about what’s right and wrong; and he is wonderfully alive to the human capacity for absurd behavior. Gary’s scholarship and professional ethics, combined with his impish sense of humor, make for delightful reading." 

— Dan Hofstadter, author of Goldberg’s Angel: An Adventure in the Antiquities Trade

Sacred and Stolen: Confessions of a Museum Director

Sacred and Stolen is the memoir of an art museum director with the courage to reveal what goes on behind the scenes. It lays bare the messy part of museums: looted antiquities, crooked dealers, deluded collectors, duplicitous public officials, fakes, inside thefts, bribery, and failed exhibitions. These back stories, at once shocking and comical, reveal a man with a taste for adventure, an eagerness to fan the flames of excitement, and comfort with the chaos that often ensued.

This is also the story of a Minnesota kid who started out as a printer’s devil in his father’s small-town newspaper and ended up as the director of a the Walters, a gem of an art museum in Baltimore. Of his quest to bring the “holy” into the museum experience, and of his struggle to reconcile his passion for acquiring and displaying sacred works of art with his suspicion that they were stolen.

Among the cast of characters are the elegant French oil heiress Dominique de Menil, the notorious Turkish smuggler, Aydin Dikmen, the inscrutable and implacable Patriarchs of Ethiopia and Georgia, and the charismatic President of Georgia, Eduard Shevardnadze. And the mysterious “Mr. R. Egrette,” a museum insider who stole a tiny Renoir as a present for his girlfriend that finally turned up 60 years later.


From The Holy Land To Graceland: Sacred People, Places and Things In Our Lives 

Graceland is much more than a wildly popular historic house and tourist destination associated with a famous entertainer, and Elvis Presley is much more than the King of Rock ‘n’ Roll. As former Walters Art Museum director and medievalist Gary Vikan shows us in his fascinating new book, Graceland, the second-most visited historic house in the U.S., is a “locus sanctus”—a holy place—and Elvis is its resident saint, while the hordes of fans that crowd Elvis Presley Boulevard in Memphis are modern-day pilgrims, connected in spirit and practice to their early Christian counterparts, sharing a fascination for icons and iconography, relics, souvenirs, votives, and even a belief in miracles. Vikan reveals the emergence of contemporary holy places—Ground Zero in Lower Manhattan, the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, the Grassy Knoll in Dallas, Place de I’Alma in Paris—and shows us that the saints of our day are our “martyred” secular charismatics, from Elvis to John F. Kennedy, Princess Diana, Michael Jackson, and others.


Early Byzantine Pilgrimage Art

Early Byzantine Pilgrimage Art explores the portable artifacts of eastern Mediterranean pilgrimage from the fifth to the seventh century, presenting them in the context of contemporary pilgrims’ texts and the archaeology of sacred sites. The book shows how the iconography and devotional piety of Byzantine pilgrimage art changed, and it surveys the material and social culture of pilgrimage. What did these early religious travelers take home with them and what did they leave behind? Where were these “sacred souvenirs” manufactured and what was their purpose? How did the images imprinted upon many of them help realize that purpose? The first edition of this pathbreaking book, published in 1982, established late antique pilgrimage and its artifacts as an important topic of study. In this revised, enlarged version, Gary Vikan significantly expands the narrative by situating the miraculous world of the early Byzantine pilgrim within the context of late antique magic and pre-Christian healing shrines, and by considering the trajectory of pilgrimage after the Arab conquest of the seventh century.