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Why do art thieves steal famous paintings??


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I heard on the news of the brazen and dangerous theft of three famous paintings in Zurich, and I've been racking my brains all day trying to figure out why someone would do it. I mean, these paintings might be valuable if one museum were to legally sell it to another, but as stolen pieces of artwork, aren't these things pretty worthless? I mean, these things aren't like a chest of South African golden Krugerands or diamonds which couldn't be identified.

Who would want such a painting? You couldn't display it anywhere. You couldn't even show it to anyone except for whatever tiny number of people you could trust to keep the secret for the rest of your life (and never blackmail you). I can't imagine how one might sell it for much, nor what use it would even be to one's heirs.

I suppose if one really loved that piece of art, one could keep it in a secret room and admire it privately, but a good reproduction would achieve the same purpose. Does anyone here know what these thieves do with these paintings and who would pay what for these things? I can't imagine a more ridiculous investment...

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Guest zipperzone

I think you are forgetting that some very wealthy art collectors would want a painting that is commercially unavailable just for the thrill of owning it.

 

They probably live in immense houses where they can be displayed for their own enjoyment and very likely never to be seen by anyone but themselves - and the occasional servant (who would not necessarily know they were stolen)

 

And should they want to dispose of them, there are always other wealthy collectors who want them bad enough as to not question their origin.

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I read a news report saying one of the thieves was

speaking German at the museum with a Slavic accent.

I'm sure the Russian mob would pay dearly for a

Van Gogh or two without caring if they were stolen.

Maybe to them that actually adds extra value.

 

Too bad for the rest of us, really. Those paintings

are all too amazing to be stashed away somewhere,

stolen or not. They should be enjoyed by everyone.

 

Lookin4hotties

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>I suppose if one really loved that piece of art, one could

>keep it in a secret room and admire it privately, but a good

>reproduction would achieve the same purpose.

 

If one could achieve the same enjoyment with a reproduction than why don't the museums simply hang reproductions? I bet they would save a bundle on insurance.

 

As a kid I didn't understand the fuss about Van Gogh until I saw an original. Wow. Because of his heavy use of impasto (or something like that with paint piled on thick) technique many of his works are very 3d, not just in appearance but actually inches thick.

 

Perhaps the thieves intend to ransom the art?

Or perhaps whoever had it stolen or intends to buy it is obsessed. So obsessed with that work of art that they already have an elaborate very good reproduction. So anybody seeing now the original in his private collection might well assume it to be the copy.

 

Apparently there are 16 other Van Goghs whose whereabouts are unknown ( http://www.vggallery.com/map/unknown.htm ).

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I have read a few books about art theft and there appear to be various motives behind the theft of famous art. One of the most interesting was the case of the Italian who stole the Mona Lisa in the Louvre over a century ago. The painting went missing for several years and the case was finally resolved and the man apprehended. I seem to recall he had stolen the painting out of a feeling that it belonged back in Italy and not in France.

 

This particular art theft involved a private museum in Zurich that housed the collection of a Second World War arms dealer who sold arms to the Nazis, among others. Apparently some of his acquisitions were from Jews who were being driven out of Germany by the Nazis. There is no suggestion that the works stolen were among these controversial paintings. Nevertheless, there is probably less sympathy for the victim in this case than would otherwise be the case.

 

Years ago I read the novel The Eiger Sanction which was later made into a film. That story concerned an American professor who doubled as a contract killer and used his profits to buy stolen art masterpieces that he kept in his private gallery for his sole enjoyment. There are probably a few individuals in this world of 6 billion people who have the means and the opportunity to emulate him.

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Raul,

 

There are several possibilities. Ransom is one.

 

But more probably, the paintings were being stolen on commission for a private collection. The Japanese and Swiss have long built up their private collections by theft. The Russians have recently joined the market. The particular museum which was robbed has a reputation that its collection is based at least in part on stolen goods.

 

You can't buy a Van Gogh painting, or even a Monet, on the legitimate market these days. There just aren't any left or available. So if you want one, and you have the money, you hire an agent who contacts special thieves who will loot private homes or small museums for you.

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>

>You can't buy a Van Gogh painting, or even a Monet, on the

>legitimate market these days. There just aren't any left or

>available.

 

That's not quite right. While it is true such paintings come to auction very rarely, they do from time to time. The amount of money they fetch however is staggering, right up there with Warhol!!! :7 :7

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I just checked on the internet and a Monet (Waterloo Bridge) sold for around $38 million last spring at Christies and another one at Sotheby's for around $36 million (They were both priced in pounds so you have to make the conversion). In 2006 a van Gogh went for $40 million at Christies. I remember in November a van Gogh watercolor came up for auction at Sotheby's but didn't sell as it did not make its reserve price.

 

So if you have deep pockets, you can still acquire works by Impressionists. For recent billionaires being minted in Russia, China, India and even America, these are trophies that declare that you have arrived.

 

For the criminals that deal in the black market for art, they obviously don't want to flaunt their possessions.

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>I have read a few books about art theft and there appear to

>be various motives behind the theft of famous art. One of the

>most interesting was the case of the Italian who stole the

>Mona Lisa in the Louvre over a century ago. The painting went

>missing for several years and the case was finally resolved

>and the man apprehended. I seem to recall he had stolen the

>painting out of a feeling that it belonged back in Italy and

>not in France.

>

>This particular art theft involved a private museum in Zurich

>that housed the collection of a Second World War arms dealer

>who sold arms to the Nazis, among others. Apparently some of

>his acquisitions were from Jews who were being driven out of

>Germany by the Nazis. There is no suggestion that the works

>stolen were among these controversial paintings. Nevertheless,

>there is probably less sympathy for the victim in this case

>than would otherwise be the case.

>

>Years ago I read the novel The Eiger Sanction which was later

>made into a film. That story concerned an American professor

>who doubled as a contract killer and used his profits to buy

>stolen art masterpieces that he kept in his private gallery

>for his sole enjoyment. There are probably a few individuals

>in this world of 6 billion people who have the means and the

>opportunity to emulate him.

>

This is a very interesting response. This episode has really piqued my curiosity on the subject. Would you mind recommending a book or two on the subject? The revenge motive does at least have some sense to it to which I can relate. People often do go to great personal sacrifice to see that justice is done. Is the story on the Eiger sanction based on real events? One would have to have a truly warped mind to want to own artwork which no one else could see (in a secluded room, no less). But I guess there probably are a number of rich, lonesome psychopaths out there. I do own a Van Gogh reproduction myself. It's not a terribly expensive one, but it does have the thick brushstrokes, etc. Having an original wouldn't make my home any more charming...

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Guest zipperzone

>This is a very interesting response. This episode has really

>piqued my curiosity on the subject. Would you mind

>recommending a book or two on the subject?

 

A very entertaining and factual book on the subject was published in 1969 authored by David Leitch and called "The Discriminating Thief"

 

It is the true story of the looting of French chateaux around 1962 by a master thief Xavier Richier (who was a country doctor) and what was coined as "The Chateau Gang"

 

As well as paintings,they stole tapestries, porcelain, silver and furniture.

 

This well written book reads like a thriller but is based purely on fact. I have owned a copy for years and like to re-read it every year or two.

 

A quick check on Amazon showed that used copies were still available (although I wouldn't vouch for their condition) at almost giveaway prices.

 

I can't recommend this book highly enough!

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Guest backbaygayguy

>I think you are forgetting that some very wealthy art

>collectors would want a painting that is commercially

>unavailable just for the thrill of owning it.

 

But it seems odd that they took four paintings in a row in one room, and left other more valuable paintings in other rooms. If they were stealing "to order," would seem as if it would have been more planned.

 

It's also possible the thiefs are amateurs who think they can unload valuable paintings for big bucks, without realizing that the local fence won't touch them. Sometimes these paintings turn up later, unsold and discarded or in storage (I believe that's what happened to one or two Munch paintings taken from a Norwegian museum -- the thieves couldn't unload them).

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Shocked nobody has mentioned the obvious thus far ... Thomas Crown Affair.

 

An elegant crime by an elegant person. Often times it's just the next step for someone who has everything, getting something that they can't buy with money because it's not "available" to them.

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Being somewhat older, the Thomas Crown Affair I remember is the movie that starred Steve McQueen and Faye Dunaway, which now seems like eons ago! I did not see the remake featuring Pierce Brosnan and so didn't realize they had switched the story line from a bank heist to an art theft. Since the original movie was based on a real story, I assume the remake was just pure fiction. Nevertheless, I will try to rent a DVD to watch the Brosnan flic since I enjoy a good caper, which the McQueen film was in spades. BTW, wasn't the song The Windmills of My Mind used in the original Crown movie? I seem to remember it being up for the Oscar but can't recall whether it won.

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They must´a been nutz!

 

(02-18) 12:07 PST ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) --

 

Swiss media reported Monday that paintings stolen in one of Europe's largest art thefts may have been discovered in a parking lot in front of a Zurich mental hospital.

 

The area around the Psychiatric University Clinic was closed off Monday evening, and Zurich police spokeswoman Judith Hoedl said that a suspicious vehicle had been found.

 

She declined to say whether it was connected with the Feb. 10 robbery from a Zurich museum. The stolen works by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet from the private E.G. Buehrle Collection are worth more than $163 million.

 

Hoedl said police would not release any more information before Tuesday so that they could examine everything carefully.

 

But the local TV station TeleZuri quoted an unidentified witness as saying that the car contained three paintings bearing the name of the museum. Among the pictures was Claude Monet's "Poppy field at Vetheuil," the witness was quoted as saying.

 

The other pictures stolen were Edgar Degas'"Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter," Vincent van Gogh's "Blooming Chestnut Branches" and Paul Cezanne's "Boy in the Red Waistcoat."

 

Local radio station Radio 24, also citing an unidentified witness, reported that the building supervisor at the hospital found paintings in an unlocked car.

 

The clinic is only a few hundred yards from the museum.

 

The area was cordoned off by police, and a switchboard operator confirmed to The Associated Press that the police were there, but that she was not allowed to say what was happening.

 

Police took the suspicious car — a white midsize sedan — away after dark on a tow truck.

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Hey Glutes -- sorry I missed that! Great article!

 

As to the remake ... yeah I thoroughly enjoyed both but yes, very different. The new one does toy with your suspension of disbelief but you have fun doing it and dear god I hope I look as hot as Pierce or Rene at that age.

 

Meanwhile you'll love a certain Faye-bulous cameo in the first five minutes of the show ;)

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