Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Seven Paintings Stolen From Dutch Museum

The Art World

An article in The National Post says that seven masterpieces were stolen from the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, in a theft valued at more than one hundred million dollars. This is a stunning blow for the private Triton Foundation collection, which was being exhibited publicly as a group for the first time.
The collection was on display as part of celebrations surrounding Kunsthal’s 20th anniversary. Police spokeswoman Willemieke Romijn said investigators were reviewing videotapes of the theft, which took place around 3 a.m. local time, and calling for any witnesses to come forward. Police have yet to reveal how the heist took place. Indications are that the perpetrators of the crime knew which pieces they were after.
Chris Marinello, director of The Art Loss Register, which tracks stolen artworks, said it was clear some of the most valuable pieces in the collection were targeted. “Those thieves got one hell of a haul,” Marinello said. Marinello said the items taken could even be worth “hundreds of millions of euros” — if sold legally at auction. However, he said that was now impossible, as the paintings have already been registered internationally as stolen.
The stolen paintings were Picasso’s 1971 “Harlequin Head”; Monet’s 1901 “Waterloo Bridge, London” and “Charing Cross Bridge, London”; Henri Matisse’s 1919 “Reading Girl in White and Yellow”; Paul Gauguin’s 1898 “Girl in Front of Open Window”; Meyer de Haan’s “Self-Portrait,” around 1890, and Lucian Freud’s 2002 work “Woman with Eyes Closed.”
Marinello said the thieves have limited options available, such as blackmailing the owners or the museum or the insurers. They could conceivably sell the paintings in the criminal market too, though any sale would likely be a small fraction of their potential auction value.
That always raises questions as to why thieves would carry out such a theft. Given the limited means of disposing such well-known and registered works, it always raises speculation that an unscrupulous wealthy individual or two would purchase the paintings at a fraction of their worth, and lock it up for private viewing. Such is far-fetched and worthy of fiction, art experts point out, including Marinello of the Art Loss Register, who was quoted in a Chicago Tribune article as saying "it was unlikely the works had been stolen 'to order' from a wealthy collector, dismissing such theories as the realm of Hollywood."

Even so, most stolen paintings are neither sold or recovered. As an ABC News article says: "According to the Art Loss Register, an international index of stolen works, there are 350,000 stolen works of art in the world. Once thieves realize they can't sell the paintings at auction or get paid a ransom fee without getting caught, many try to obtain cash or collateral illegally, said Chris Marinello, general counsel for the Register." For the record, here is a list of stolen paintings that have yet to be recovered.

You can read the rest of the article at [National Post]