Burglars who absconded via the back door of the Rotterdam Kunsthal with seven masterpieces by Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin and Monet worth millions were caught on CCT. The masked hooded men are seen removing the paintings in large rucksacks.
The thieves must now be finding out that their spoils are not so easy to sell on the open market. The Art Loss Register, whose job it is to track stolen art stated, “That the works are far too high profile to sell on the open market and underground networks for high value works are few and far between”. With estimates ranging from $6 billion to $9 billion in global sales each year, art is a buoyant international commodity.
Twenty two years ago $300 million dollars worth of old master paintings were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston it is the largest single property theft ever. The case is still unsolved and the twelve paintings have never been recovered. “It’s easy to steal artwork, and that’s why you see it happen, but it’s not easy to sell it. You steal a car, you steal a watch, there’s a market for that. You steal a Rembrandt, you steal a Picasso . It’s too recognisable,” said Geoffrey Kelly, the FBI agent leading the Gardner investigation.
In 2010 five paintings were stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art. One French report, told of the thieves panicking after a series of arrests, resulting in the destruction of the canvases and the burning of the remains. The Picasso, Braque, Modigliani, Matisse and Leger masterpieces are still untraced and the story has never been substantiated. In 2004, The Scream,” one of Edvard Munch most iconic masterpieces was stolen from an Oslo museum. It was recovered in 2006.The work was damaged but repairable. This outcome was one of the many positive results of an increase in international policing within the art trade. It is hopefully sending out a signal that these culturally important works of art belong to all of us and have little or no intrinsic value. In the Rotterdam case, the payout is likely to climb to the tens of millions of dollars and costs will rise in art insurance as a result.