Tag Archives: art theft

The Seven Year Snitch

Come the 10th of June 2007, it will be seven years since the public last set eyes on the painting A Cavalier (self portrait). Its place on the wall in a small enclave of the Art Gallery of New South Wales, which forms part of the James Fairfax Galleries, has long since been claimed by another artwork, Mars and the Vestal Virgin (1638) by Jacques Blanchard. Sadly, with the investigation into the theft of A Cavalier at a standstill and with little attention given to its continued disappearance, those unfamiliar with the case will be unaware that A Cavalier once held pride of place in that collection. It is as if it never existed – and all because somebody (or bodies), decided to pinch, nick, steal, nab, rob, pilfer, purloin, take, snitch the painting…and now in 2014 we will have The Seven Year Snitch. Sound familiar? The name is borrowed from the 1955 film directed by Billy Wilder, The Seven Year Itch. You know the one, even if you haven’t seen it. Just picture Marilyn Monroe in a white pleated halter-neck dress standing on a subway grate to get the breeze, her pleats take flight and an iconic image is born! While the title of that movie refers to the suggestion that after seven years of marriage spouses may want to stray from home (and their marriage), in the case of A Cavalier, we’d much prefer that it hadn’t strayed at all but was still home, safe and sound, at the Art Gallery of New South Wales.
Actually, the original meaning of the phrase is more relevant here where the “seven-year itch wasn’t a condition that supposedly began after seven years, but one that supposedly lasted for seven years” (http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/seven-year-itch.html). Indeed, one could say that after seven years, we are itching to get A Cavalier back!

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BLOUIN: Art Thief Strikes Courthouse Jury Room

This is surprising not just for the location, but because I’m always surprised at how bad paintings in courthouses are. –AA

Amid the last two years’ apparent uptick in art thievery, it was only a matter of time before this crime spree reached the heartland of America. As a footnote to a Columbia County Board meeting on December 4, clerk of courts Susan Raimer announced the theft of three pieces of art from the walls of the Columbia, Wisconsin courthouse, the Portage Daily Register reports.

The site of the theft, the courthouse’s Branch 2 jury room, is typically used for deliberating jurors, conferences between attorneys and their clients, and by courthouse employees in need of a table — perhaps to do some paperwork or eat their lunch. Raimer had ordered three framed pictures from a catalogue to brighten up the space. “You like to have things so that a courthouse isn’t such a scary place,” she told the Daily Register. “They were just something a little different.”

The framed pictures, each worth about $5, showed highly realistic three-dimensional scenery. The images changed — depending on which side they were viewed from, suggesting that they may have been lenticular prints.

Raimer has since replaced the stolen art, this time with motivational pieces similar to the other art in the jury room, and while security footage has been examined after the pieces were last seen on November 20, no leads have been disclosed to the public.

— Meredith Caraher


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The guilty plea of the Romanians who robbed the Kunsthal Museum in the Netherlands reads like it’s right out of the art theft playbook:  thieves, with the assistance of an insider, steal valuable works of art that they believe they can sell on the black market but soon find out that they cannot.  Read here from the BBC:

TImageThree Romanian men have pleaded guilty to stealing seven paintings, including works by Picasso, Gauguin, Monet and Matisse, from a Dutch museum last year.

Radu Dogaru, Alexandru Bitu and Eugen Darie told a Bucharest court they took the paintings from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam in October 2012.

The suspects admitted they brought the paintings to Romania and had tried to sell them on the black market.

The seven works have never been found and may have been burned.

Thieves broke in through a rear emergency exit of the museum, grabbing the paintings off the wall and fleeing within minutes.

The stolen works included two paintings by Monet, a 2002 piece by Lucien Freud and a self-portrait by the Dutch painter Meye de Haan.

Speaking in court on Tuesday, Mr Dogaru said security had been “practically inexistent” and he had “entered practically just with a screwdriver”.

His lawyer went on to tell reporters his client said he had inside help. A spokeswoman for the museum declined to comment.

Mr Dogaru told the court the paintings had been handed over to a Russian Ukrainian man and had not been burned in his mother’s stove as had been suggested.

Olga Dogaru, who is charged with handling stolen property, had told investigators she burned the paintings but later denied it.

Her son also claimed at one point he had offered to return five of the paintings to Dutch authorities, but they had declined the offer and demanded all seven.

Six Romanians have been put on trial in the case. One is still on the run and being tried in absentia.

The next hearing in the case will be held on 19 November.

Now, on to the hard part–determining exactly where the art is

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The Worst Case Scenario

BUCHAREST (AFP).- The mother of a Romanian art heist suspect has admitted to torching seven stolen masterpieces, including works by Picasso and Monet, the Mediafax news agency reported Tuesday. The mother of suspect Radu Doragu said she incinerated the artworks, valued at over 100 million euros ($130 million), in her stove in a bid to “destroy any evidence”. “After the arrest of my son in January 2013, I was very scared because I knew that what had happened was very serious,” Mediafax reported Dogaru’s mother as saying, citing court documents. “I placed the suitcase containing the paintings in the stove. I put in some logs, slippers and rubber shoes and waited until they had completely burned.” The court documents appear to confirm earlier fears, after it was reported in May that investigators were combing through ashes found in her home. Six Romanians will stand trial in August for what has been called the “theft of the century”. The seven masterpieces were swiped from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum on October 16 in less than 90 seconds. The heist gripped The Netherlands and the art world as police struggled to solve the crime, putting 25 officers on the case. The works stolen include Picasso’s “Tete d’Arlequin”, Monet’s “Waterloo Bridge” and Lucian Freud’s “Woman with Eyes Closed”.

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The Cookie Monster Thief

Sent to me by the great Capt. Mike Parker of the L.A. County Sheriff’s Department–AA

‘Cookie Monster’ sends 2nd note in sculpture theft

BERLIN (AP) – Police in Germany say someone dressed as the Cookie Monster has sent a second note regarding a stolen cookie sculpture – this time saying he wants to return it.

But officials aren’t sure the person in the photo actually stole the 20-kilogram (44 pound), century-old sculpture.

The gilded bronze item was part of a statue outside German cookie baker Bahlsen’s Hannover office, and it was reported stolen last month.

The Hannover police’s statement says a local newspaper on Monday received a picture of someone dressed like the Sesame Street character holding what appears to be the stolen cookie.

The enclosed note is written in cut-out letters.

An earlier letter demanded that cookies be delivered to children at a city hospital, but the new note made no demands.

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Minnesota Man Sentenced In Stolen Art Scam

ST. PAUL, Minn. (AP) A St. Paul man has been sentenced to three years of probation for claiming his pricey art had been stolen and then collecting insurance money.

A federal judge also ordered Jason Sheedy to pay more than $325,000 in restitution to insurance companies. The 39-year-old Sheedy could have gone to prison for more than two years.

Federal prosecutors say Sheedy claimed some valuable artwork had been stolen from a van while he was moving in September 2007. The following year he filed insurance claims and was sent checks totaling about $345,000. In 2011, Sheedy listed six of the painting he said were stolen on an art brokerage website.

The St. Paul Pioneer Press says an art theft registry business spotted the paintings and alerted police. Sheedy pleaded guilty to wire fraud last year.

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Art Theft on the Rise


IOL news nov 12  PN Pretoria Art Museum

Four of five paintings stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum and were found on a bench in a cemetery in Port Elizabeth, police said. Photo: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria – Art theft in South Africa is not a common crime, but with more individuals realising the value of South African art, its incidence is on the increase, the founder of ArtVault, Dale Sargent, has said.

On Tuesday, Lohine Horne, 59, appeared briefly in the Pretoria Specialised Commercial Crimes Court on a charge of theft. The case was postponed to January.

She was earlier found guilty of stealing her stepbrother Koos Jordaan’s Pierneef painting, titled Karoo naby Middelburg CP.

The 1954 artwork is worth about R2 million and was sold by Horne for R850 000 through an auctioneer.

Jordaan inherited the painting from his father after he died in 1995. Jordaan left the painting with his mother. His mother died in 2008, and it emerged that Horne had removed the painting in November 2007.

Sargent said it was extremely difficult, if not impossible, to resell valuable artwork once stolen. “Any reputable dealer or auction house will research the work.

The market for valuable artwork in South Africa is small. It can easily be determined if an art piece has been stolen.”

Recent artworks stolen include five paintings taken from the Pretoria Art Museum last month.

Three men entered the museum, tied employees up and produced a “shopping list” of artworks they wanted while holding an employee at gunpoint. The paintings included Pierneef’s Eland and Bird (1961), Irma Stern’s Fishing Boats (1931) and Gerard Sekoto’s Street Scene (1939).

Four of the paintings were later found at a church in Port Elizabeth. Sekoto’s Street Scene, valued at R7 million, is still missing.

Two weeks before, a Pierneef painting was stolen from the Potchefstroom art gallery.

Sargent’s company, ArtVault, documents and catalogues many of the country’s corporate and private collections, including works at the Constitutional Court. He said private collectors could now keep their art safe by using security tags. “It is effective but expensive.”

Radio frequency identity tags would soon be available. These clip on to the back of a painting. When the frequency is interrupted an alarm goes off. Another method is a battery-operated device on which the painting is hung. If movement is detected, an alarm goes off.

Artinsure.co.za also said art and cultural property theft was a rapidly growing criminal enterprise.

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DaVinci Returns Home to Italy


By Josephine McKenna in Rome (Telegraph)

The work, which consists of a panel known as the Tavola Doria, depicts a scene from the famous Battle of Anghiari of 1440 in which Florence and its allies defeated troops from Milan during the Wars in Lombardy.

It was believed to be part of a mysterious painting known as the ‘Lost Leonardo’ which Da Vinci is believed to have painted on a wall of Palazzo Vecchio, the medieval town hall in the heart of Florence, in 1505.

The Tavola Doria went on display this week at the Quirinale Palace, the official residence of President Giorgio Napolitano and shows four soldiers on horseback locked in furious combat.

“A universally recognised masterpiece has returned to Italy’s possession,” Mr Napolitano said in a statement.

The painting measures 45x34in and was last seen in public in Milan.

But Italian art police say after the panel was stolen from its owners in Naples it passed through a Swiss art dealer, before being sent to Germany for restoration in the 1960s.

The artwork then travelled to a New York art gallery before ending up in Japan where it was eventually bought by the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum in 1992.

The Japanese museum agreed to send it back to Italy after lengthy negotiations and an arrangement which will give it joint access to the work for 26 years.

In a joint statement released by Italy and Japan, Roberto Cecchi, the Italian culture ministry’s under-secretary, said he was “thrilled” to see the work return to Italy.

“We are immensely grateful to the Tokyo Fuji Art Museum for their most generous donation and look forward to our co-operation with the museum,’ he said.

After its stint at the palace ends in January, the painting is expected be housed at the Uffizi Gallery in Florence.

Art historians have been looking for the remains of the Battle of Anghiari, which they believe lies behind a wall painted by Giorgio Vasari when he was commissioned to do another fresco in Florence’s medieval municipal headquarters.

In March this year a team led by Professor Maurizio Seracini said it had found evidence that the painting still exists behind a cavity, underneath a section of Vasari’s fresco in the grand chamber, the Hall of the Five Hundred.

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Major Theft at Christie’s in Britain

(rt.com) A sculpture by Turner Prize winner Douglas Gordon made of solid gold has been stolen from the Christie’s auction house.

The artwork titled the Left Hand and Right Hand Have Left One Another worth around $800,000 belonged to the artist whose works are owned by the world’s top contemporary art museums including the Tate and New York’s Museum of Modern Art.

According to the Guardian newspaper the artist fears the sculpture was stolen for the value of the gold which is estimated at some $400,000.
“I don’t think this is an art theft,” Gordon told the Guardian. “I’m pretty sure it has been melted down.”

Gordon said he was irritated that Christie’s confirmed the artwork had been stolen only after he learnt about it elsewhere. While he first heard of the matter last week, Christie’s informed him 16 days after the crime was reported to the police.

“It is like someone borrowing your car, and then you finding out from a neighbour that it has been crashed,” he said. “It looks like I am the last person in the chain to know.”

Scotland Yard is now investigating the theft of the artwork.

“This matter is under investigation and we are in contact with all parties involved. We cannot comment further,” a Christies’s spokesman is quoted by the Guardian as saying, adding that Gordon’s gallery had been informed right away.

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When Your Van Gogh is Gone

by Ed Leefeldt, Insure.com

When you visit a museum, don’t just gaze at the art on the walls. Take a good look at the guards posted in the rooms and doorways, especially their line of sight to the exhibits. Then check out the blinking cameras in the ceiling, the bolted-to-the-wall frames of the paintings and the shatterproof non-reflective casings on the statuary.

And be aware that others, less reputable than you, are doing the same thing.

The recent art theft at the Kunsthal gallery in the Netherlands shows that art thieves also know their way around a museum. And they like Impressionist paintings. These thieves stole two Monets, a Matisse, and a Gauguin, as well as a Picasso. And all in the five minutes before a “state of the art” (no pun intended) alarm alerted the police, who arrived within five minutes.

‘Museum of the Missing’

These paintings now belong to the “Museum of the Missing,” as one book on the subject describes it, which currently includes 340,000 art objects, according to the Art Loss Register. The “missing” collection also has five Rembrandts.

The paintings removed from the Kunsthal are from the private collection of multimillionaire Willem Cordia, whose family expressed “shock.” Which leads us to ask: Why do wealthy collectors lend their artwork to museums and galleries when they risk losing their prized possessions?

Not nailed down

More wealthy people than ever are collecting art. In uncertain times, classic art is a certainty. Auction houses such as Christie’s saw art sales soar 200-fold in recent years. And this year when Sotheby’s auctioned off Edvard Munch’s painting “The Scream,” the selling price was a record $120 million. Incidentally, two versions of “The Scream” have already been stolen, with only one recovered.

“The recovery rate for stolen art is minimal,” says a study in the Suffolk Transnational Law Journal, at least in the short term.

So those who own a valued piece of art should always have it insured. Insurers such as Chubb and Travelers handle specialty policies like this.

Their first step is to have an independent appraiser check its value and make sure it was not already stolen by checking the art registry. This is particularly true for art that may have passed through Europe during World War II, when light-fingered Nazis were stealing anything not nailed down.

Then the insurance company will examine home security to make sure there are alarms and protective devices to keep it dry and secure.

The Kentucky Derby

But most art collectors aren’t satisfied with just hanging their Jackson Pollock on the wall. They want it displayed publicly, even at the risk of losing it. Why?

“Collectors lend to galleries because they like to share,” says Andrew Gristina, who heads the Travelers Fine Art Practice. “Some feel it’s their duty.”

But there are other reasons, such as bragging rights. Like the owner of a Kentucky Derby winning racehorse, it’s an honor to have an exhibit with your name on it.

And it can be profitable, too. As Dorit Straus, worldwide specialty fine art manager for Chubb Corp., points out, “an exhibition can help someone ‘arrive.'” If artists become famous, their work is worth a lot more after a big showing by their owners. A lucky owner could find himself with the next “Scream.”

Kidnappers and keepers

Thieves make it their business to know what art is worth, and are more than willing to rip it off walls. Some of it winds up in China, but there’s also a thriving market for stolen paintings in Eastern Europe.

Some thieves are kidnappers. After all, a piece of art tells no tales after it’s ransomed. Insurers say they don’t pay kidnappers directly, and countries like Great Britain have specific laws against paying a ransom for stolen art. But no one denies that it happens in convoluted ways, such as providing a reward for a middleman who intercedes to have it returned.

Then there are “keepers,” people who wind up with an Andy Warhol in their basement next to “Dogs Playing Cards” or, worse yet, tucked, like the portrait of Dorian Gray, into the rafters of an attic, perhaps for a generation. “Thieves may sit on it, but then someone dies, the heirs don’t know the painting’s value, and it goes up for sale,” says Gristina. The Art Loss Register becomes aware of it, and it is returned.

Putting a price on it

But you wouldn’t want to wait until you’re old and gray to get back your masterpiece. Insurers say that if you do lend out artwork, here’s what you should do:

  • Review the museum’s offer. Exhibitions are often planned years in advance. Is it a “traveling” exhibition that moves to multiple locations, thus creating additional opportunities for damage or theft as the art is boxed and unboxed?
  • Talk to your insurance agent or broker. “We can review our contract as well as your agreement with the museum and the museum’s own policy for covered perils,” says Chubb’s Straus. Insurers themselves have “flying squads” that investigate these thefts.
  • The museum is generally responsible for your art once it leaves your door. But your insurer will likely insist on a loan agreement that covers every possibility.
  • Your insurer will also look at the “facilities report,” which describes in detail what kinds of security the museum or gallery is offering.

“Museums are wonderful places,” says Straus, “but they’re not cookie cutter.” Some skimp on security, she says, particularly overseas.

Insurers say the theft from the Kunsthal will likely cost that private gallery, and its insurer, a lot of money. As for the owners, no amount of money can replace their stolen objects.
“I’ve never met anyone who’d rather not have the art back,” says Gristina.


Bieber, porn

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