Some 50 paintings worth an estimated €400,000 or £317,000, were stolen by three men who broke into an art gallery in the affluent centre of Madrid, near the Museo del Prado. The criminals entered the Puerta de Alcalá gallery in the early morning hours of Thursday, December 4. The perpetrators first broke into the adjacent premises, a former bar that has been closed for over a year, and then created a hole through to the gallery. Once they had deactivated the gallery’s alarm system the three individuals proceeded to take the artworks.
According to reports, the heist was perpetrated in a very blatant fashion. The thieves spent almost three hours moving the works of art from the gallery to a van parked in the street in plain view.
It would seem that the thieves were incredibly confident as when a security guard from a construction site nearby spotted the criminals and asked them what they were doing. The men simply replied that they worked for the gallery and were transporting the large group of artworks to an exhibition. Satisfied with the seemingly logical reply, the security guard merely walked away.
Authorities still have no clues as to the whereabouts of the paintings. “We think they might have been taken outside of Spain,” Lola Moreno, from Puerta de Alcalá gallery, told the press. “The security guard said two of the three men had Eastern European accents, so the paintings might have been trafficked. The thieves also took our invoice books, so we fear they might try to pass any sales as legit,” she concluded.
“This has destroyed us,” Pedro Márquez, who owned the gallery for many years before his son took over its running, told the Guardian. “It’s left us in a really tough situation. Forty years of work and they just walked out with it.”
Initial reports stated that 70 paintings were stolen. The gallery has subsequently lowered this number to 50. The gallery specialises in 20th century realist and impressionist painters from Spain. Among the stolen paintings are 14 works by the Sevillian artist Pablo Segarra Chías, which were meant to be shown as part of a solo exhibition. Yet the exhibition opened last night despite the theft. Works by the Valencian painter Eustaquio Segrelles and Juan González Alacreu were also taken by the perpetrators.