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Picasso, Matisse, Monet works stolen from Dutch museum

October 17, 2012|By David Ng

Did inside information play an important role in one of the most brazen art heists in recent years? On Tuesday, thieves made off with works by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and others from a museum in the Netherlands city of Rotterdam.

Tuesday's theft is also believed to include works by Gauguin and Lucian Freud. The heist reportedly took place in the early morning before public visiting hours. The total number of missing works currently stands at seven, according to reports.

On Wednesday, CBS News interviewed Chris Marinello, director of the Art Loss Register, an organization that tracks stolen artwork, and he suggested that the thieves had inside information.

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"The police will be looking at friends and relatives of various museum personnel, looking into their backgrounds to see if they can find some kind of a connection," he said. "It just went too smoothly, this theft."

CBS also reported that no guards were on duty at the time of the robbery, but police arrived at the museum just five minutes after the alarm system was triggered.

The Dutch newspaper De Volkskrant interviewed museum security expert Ton Cremers, who said it has become easier than ever for thieves to steal paintings even from well-protected galleries such as the Kunsthal. He said some of the fault lay with its design.

Calling the Kunsthal a wonderful museum (it was designed by Rem Koolhaas), he also said it was a nightmare from a security point of view.

"As a gallery it is a gem. But it is an awful building to have to protect," Cremers said. "If you hold your face up to the window at the back you have a good view of the paintings, which makes it all too easy for thieves to plot taking them from the walls." 

The theft took place during an exhibition of art belonging to a group called the Triton Foundation, which collects and loans art, according to published reports.

The Kunsthal closed its doors to the public on Tuesday, but its website said it will reopen Wednesday and that the exhibition from which the pieces were stolen will also reopen.

Some reports have put the value of the missing art at hundreds of millions of dollars. 

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