Tag Archives: stolen art

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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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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How Google Searches Were Used to Find Millions in Stolen Art


In mid-September, thieves robbed [Jeffrey Gundlach's] Santa Monica home in a quiet residential neighborhood, taking more than $10 million in artworks as well as his red 2010 Porsche Carrera 4S, wine and watches. The robbers also snatched two works by Gundlach’s late grandmother, Helen Fuchs, who was an amateur painter.

The money manager first offered $200,000 for tips leading to the recovery of his art and days later boosted the reward to $1.7 million. Santa Monica Police Department Sergeant Richard Lewis says the large sum of money was key to cracking the case, which the Federal Bureau of Investigation assisted on.

In late September, two suspects were arrested and all of the stolen art was recovered.

The cerebral Gundlach also gave investigators a tip for solving the crime. He says that while he was at home in his family room, it dawned on him that thieves would do a Google search using his grandmother’s name to find out more about the paintings and how much they might be worth.

Gundlach told the authorities that they should check the Internet to see who might have googled the name Helen Fuchs. He says exactly two such searches were executed: one by him and one by the thieves.

Gundlach says his Internet idea impressed investigators.

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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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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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It’s nice to hear about an art recovery for a change. And, as in Marina Del Ray last year, the drop-off site was a church. –AA

Nearly a dozen pieces of artwork stolen from a Saint Andrews home have been found a short distance away on the steps of a church in Chamcook.

RCMP said several pieces of artwork were stolen between Saturday evening and early Sunday morning from the house on Parr Street.

Melanie Wood, who rents the house from a local artist and art collector, told CBC News she had gone away for the weekend and when she returned home on Sunday, she discovered a number of pieces were missing.

On Tuesday she said she was “ecstatic” about the return of the art.

“I was feeling not so good this morning and pretty vulnerable and violated after what had happened,” she said.

“Knowing it was probably someone that has been in my home and I shared maybe a drink with, or coffee, or a meal or something. That changes your perspective on things.”

Wood said just about every stolen item was returned, including pottery, blown glass, an indoor wooden swing and a Herzl Kashetsky portrait of a woman created with text.

The items were found abandoned on the steps of the St. John the Baptist Anglican Church in Chamcook.

RCMP said it appears the thief or thieves either had a guilty conscience or realized the art couldn’t easily be sold. Although the artwork has been recovered, the investigation continues.

“I feel just happy and just speechless really. I don’t know, it’s amazing,” said Wood.

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Where to Go to See Stolen Art – NYTimes.com

Good piece on stolen art.� I highly recommend the Tate Gallery’s “Gallery of Lost Art.”

Where to Go to See Stolen Art – NYTimes.com.


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