The Van Buuren Museum, located on the outskirts of Brussels, suffered a robbery in 2013; with several of the works stolen said to be of great value, including The Thinker (1907) by Dutch painter Kees van Dongen, estimated at a replacement value of €1.2 million, or over £861,000.
The robbers managed to steal ten paintings and two drawings over the course of just two minutes; with works stolen including a painting by Pieter Brueghel the Younger, and James Ensor’s Shrimps and Shells (1894). The thieves also snatched a drawing titled Peasant Woman Pealing Potatoes that, although labelled as a Vincent van Gogh, is believed to be a fake.
Now, two years after the ambitious art heist, the Van Buuren Museum is negotiating with the thieves to get its works of art back, and is doing so in a highly questionable manner that may set a dangerous precedent for the future, after paying a ransom, TV Brussels reports.
“It’s a choice we have to make between two evils,” said art expert Jacques Lust in an interview with TV Brussels. “Not negotiating would mean […] having little chance to see the artworks again one day. Having contact with the robbers can lead to a solution – if we can come up with the money to pay them,” he added.
This new form of crime aptly named ‘Artnapping’ – the stealing of art for ransom – has reportedly gained popularity in the criminal world. The details of the case remain unavailable. “It happens more and more,” Lust explained. “Not all details make it to the media, of course. If a case is solved there’s no mention of the amounts paid, nor of the works having been stolen. But there’s been an increase in such cases,” he concluded.