Art Crime Facts and News

  • On January 22, 2010 at The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, a lady attending a museum art class tripped and crashed into Picasso’s painting, “The Actor,” hanging on the wall.
  • She ripped a 6-inch gash in the lower right hand corner of the painting.
  • The painting is now worth approximately 50% less than before the tear.

Luckily for the lady, she was not charged for the damages.
The painting is being repaired at the museum’s art hospital known as the conservation laboratory.

  • Early Dec. 31, 2009, a security guard at the Cantini Museum in France, reported the missing Degas.
  • The framed pastel had been unscrewed from the wall during the night while the museum was closed.
  • Thieves attempted to unscrew two other paintings, but didn’t succeed.
    No signs of a break-in through doors or windows.

Authorities suspect an inside job.
The night watchman was arrested for questioning.

  • On September 24, 2009, two thieves entered the Magritte Museum in Brussels.
  • One man pulled a gun, ordering the guards and museum patrons to kneel in the courtyard.
  • Meanwhile, the other man broke the protective glass in front of the painting “Olympia.” This set off a blaring alarm.
  • They removed the painting and ran out the door.
  • They sped off in a car.

The armed robbers have not been caught.
The painting has not been recovered.

Excerpt on Art Crime from MATISSE ON THE LOOSE Author’s Notes:

Even though it seems almost impossible to imagine how a painting could be stolen from a museum, it happens more often than you might think. Thieves outsmart security systems – climb in windows, drop down from sky-lights, hide in closets – and sometimes they come in broad daylight and take paintings right out from under everyone’s nose. Canvases are cut out of frames and stuffed under coats, paintings are taken at gunpoint, and forgeries are bought and sold as originals. Eighty percent of all art thefts are inside jobs. There are twenty-five thousand works of art listed as stolen, including one hundred and fifty Rembrandts, five hundred Picassos, and many works by Henri Matisse.

Even the most famous painting in the world, Leonardo da Vinci’s Mona Lisa, was stolen from the Louvre Museum in Paris in 1911. Vincenzo Perugia knew his way around the Louvre because he had helped construct a glass-covered display cabinet for the Mona Lisa. He hid in a storage closet, and after the museum had closed, he simply took the painting off the wall and cut it out of the frame. He unscrewed a doorknob on a security door and walked out with theMona Lisa under his shirt. The empty space on the wall the next day didn’t causealarm. The guards had a bad case of Gee, I thought you had it. They assumed the Mona Lisa was in another part of the museum. Days later they found the empty frame in a stairwell. Perugia kept the painting in his apartment for two years before he got caught trying to sell it to the Uffizi Gallery in Italy. He was sentenced to seven months in jail.

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