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Picasso Taken In Athens Museum Heist - ArtLyst Article image

Picasso Taken In Athens Museum Heist

09-01-2012
 
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Picasso and Mondrian Paintings Stolen In multi-million raid

A cubist painting by Pablo Picasso that the Spanish painter had donated to Greece in 1949 with a dedication "in homage to the Greek people" for their resistance to Nazi occupiers during World War II and another by the Dutch Painter Piet Mondrian, were stolen from Greece's National Gallery today, The Culture Ministry and police sources have revealed, The robbers smashed their way into the gallery earlier today and stole the 1939 Picasso titled "Woman's head," and an Untitled Mondrian work. "After the alarm went off the guard discovered that the two paintings were missing. Another was lying on the floor," an official told Reuters.

The gallery has many 19th and 20th century Greek painting, as well as a collection of  European art  that include prints and etchings by Albrecht Duerer, Rembrandt van Rijn and many 20th century masters. It was due to close today for a period of refurbishment. The National Gallery was established in 1878 as a small collection of 117 works exhibited at the Athens University. In 1896, Alexandros Soutzos, a jurist and art lover, bequeathed his collection and estate to the Greek Government aspiring to the creation of an art museum. The museum opened in 1900 and the first curator was the famous Greek painter Georgios Jakobides from Munich. After World War II the works began for a new building. After relocating the sculptures in the new National Glyptotheque, there is a discussion to renovate the main building and to build a new wing.

Pablo Picasso (1881 – 1973) was born in Málaga, Spain. He spent most of his working life in Paris and the South of France. Regarded as the forefather of the Cubist movement, Picasso’s revolutionary artistic achievements position him as one of the most important artists in the history of Western art. Prolific and influential, he moved through different periods throughout his artistic oeuvre; his paintings, etchings, drawings, sculptures and ceramics are deemed to personify modern art.

Piet Mondrian (1872-1944) was born into a Dutch aristocratic family in Amersfoort, Piet Mondrian began his study of art in 1892 as a student at Amsterdam's Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten. His earliest landscapes are rendered in an Impressionistic style but, possess the marked vertical and horizontal tendencies that foreshadow his mature paintings. Mondrian's work began to show the influences of Cubism in 1910 after an exhibition at the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam that included works by Picasso and Braque. In 1912, the artist moved to Paris where he continued to refine his style, continually exploring increasingly sophisticated compositions. In his paintings, Mondrian strove to achieve a universal form of expression by reducing form and color to their simplest components. The artist termed his work "Neo-Plasticism" and believed: "it is the task of art to express a clear vision of reality." Using only primary colors and basing his compositions entirely on rectangles, Mondrian painted increasingly stark, structurally harmonious compositions with an unrivaled chromatic purity. Mondrian moved to New York in 1940 to escape the disruptions of World War II. Energized by the pace of city life, the artist was extremely productive and completed a large number of paintings. Mondrian's late works, executed during his years in New York, use vacillating color and grid-like patterns to evoke the fast-paced rhythm of city streets. He is regarded by many as founder of abstract art.

he museum has reported that the alarm went off around 5am but the thieves had already vacated the building by the time security could detect them. An official said: 'After the alarm went off the guard discovered that the two paintings were missing. Another was lying on the floor.' Evidently the thieves had grander design than the procuring of just those two works, and Police are currently investigating if any other art is missing.   
As to which Mondrian work has been taken, we can narrow down the possibilities with the fact that the National Gallery collections include on two Mondrian paintings - the Mill and the Landscape – both dated 1905 and a drawing, the Study of Flower.
The burglary comes at an odd time, given this week, seemingly demonstrated once and for all that major art crime does not pay, with a 1948 painting by the Surrealist/Dadaist René Magritte being returned by thieves after they found themselves unable to sell the work.
‘They clearly understood that they could not sell it because it was too well known,’ said André Garitte, the Magritte Museum's curator. ‘As a result, the painting became embarrassing for them and they preferred to get rid of it. But fortunately they have not destroyed it.’ It was returned in pristine condition.
With the Picasso and Mondrian works being well known to specialists and laymen alike, it is likely that the same will become true with the Athens heist. All we have to hope for now is that it won’t be destroyed.


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