Stealing Creativity

What is it about art theft that is just so damned elegant? The Thomas Crown Affair is one of my most favourite films.  Pierce Brosnan, Rene Russo, a Michael Kors wardrobe, a jazz soundtrack and the art of Monet, Magritte and Pissarro and Van Gogh. What’s not to love?

In the spirit of this, I was fascinated to read that an expensive Rembrandt drawing was recently stolen from a luxury hotel in California in a “well-thought, well-planned, well-executed theft.”  Not the most glamourous of art theft but still, it’s a Rembrandt. The article got me thinking about art theft, something I have always been fascinated with so I bring you the best of the art crimes in recent years according to the F.B.I website which are still unsolved.

  • The Bürle Collection Robbery – Armed robbers took an estimated $163 million worth of art from the E. G. Bührle Collection on the shore of Lake Zurich, in Switzerland. A Monet and Van Gogh were recovered after being found in the back seat of a white car parked in a lot in front of the Burghölzli, Zurich University’s psychiatric clinic. The Degas and Cezzanne are stil missing.
  • The Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum Theft –  A pair of thieves disguised as Boston police officers entered the museum and stole thirteen works of art from its galleries, including a Vermeer (this is a big deal because there are only about 34 of these in the world), three Rembrandts, Degas and  Manet.
  • The Art Gallery Of New South Wales – A Cavalier, a self portrait in oil on wood panel by Dutch Master Frans Van Mieris, was stolen from the Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, Australia. The piece was stolen while the gallery was open for public viewing.
  • Museu Chacara do Céu Theft – four works of art and other objects were stolen from the Museu Chacara do Céu, Rio de Janeiro, by four armed men. The value of the stolen items has not been estimated as the haul was a Dali, a Matisse, a Monet and a Piscasso. In other words…priceless almost.
  • The Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney Panels – In July 2002, two oil paintings by Maxfield Parrish were stolen during a burglary of a gallery in West Hollywood, California. The paintings are two panels from a series commissioned for Gertrude Vanderbilt Whitney’s 5th Avenue mansion in New York. The paintings were cut from their frames during the theft. The value of the two paintings is estimated at $4 million.
The big guys bring the big crime. The Impressionists are the top of the art food chain. Nice to see Parrish make an appearance.
What happens to the art you ask? Black market, used for money laundering, crime bosses who want the thrill of a Picasso on their walls.
People don’t seem to care about art theft but think of it the way Anne Hawley, director of the Gardner Museum, says: “The theft of these rare and important treasures of art is a tragic loss … Imagine never being able to hear a performance of Beethoven’s ‘Fifth,’ read Herman Melville’s Moby-Dick or listen to a Louis Armstrong jazz piece ever again.” This is why the F.B.I have formed an art theft team.
Ah, what I would do to have a few days in their offices listening to the cases and talking art and crime with the peeps around the water cooler.
Have a good Wednesday Moonbeams.

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