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Uninsured Picasso Collection Stolen From Swedish Museum

November 09, 1993| From Times Wire Services

STOCKHOLM — Thieves cut a hole in the roof of Stockholm's Museum of Modern Art and "ripped the heart out" of its Pablo Picasso collection, stealing uninsured artwork worth $52 million.

The thieves carried seven framed paintings and a Picasso bronze sculpture out through the roof in one of the biggest art heists in modern history. Two of the paintings were by Georges Braque and five by Picasso.

The break-in was discovered Monday morning. The sight of a 3-by-3-foot hole in the roof of sheet metal and wood, footprints on the whitewashed wall and shattered glass on the floor caused a guard to raise the alarm.

The museum is on small Skeppsholmen Island, and police blockaded the only bridge connecting it with the rest of downtown. They circled the area and started a nationwide search.

Police said at least two professional thieves climbed to the roof of the museum Sunday night, used metal-cutting shears to make an opening in the roof and lowered themselves 12 feet into the central exhibit room.

Police officers said they found no tools or any trace of the rope they believe the thieves used.

The world's biggest art theft took place in March, 1990, when 13 works valued at $200 million were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston.

The paintings stolen from Stockholm were not insured because they are state property. Several had been donated by the late publisher Gerard Bonnier.

Museum chief Bjorn Springfeldt criticized the government and Parliament for ordering museums to cut their security spending in the last few years because they had gone over budget.

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