Dutch police are reporting that seven paintings, including works by Pablo Picasso, Claude Monet, and Henri Matisse, were stolen today in a 3 a.m. burglary at the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam. The details are still sketchy, but the Associated Press says the masterworks are potentially worth hundreds-of-millions of Euros.
To the museum, anyway. For the crooks themselves, the loot might well turn out to be worthless. According to Robert Wittman, founder of the FBI’s art crime team and author of the memoir Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures, it’s nearly impossible for thieves to sell famous pieces of art, even on the black market. […]
"Unless a criminal is stealing the painting because he loves it, to put it on his wall — which in this case I sincerely doubt," Wittman says. "You’re not going to steal a Matisse and a Picasso and a couple of Monets. They don’t go together. So unless you’re stealing it just to admire, their attempts to sell it are going to end in failure."
What kind of neanderthal would hang a Matisse, a Picasso, and a couple of Monets in the same room?
Femme Assise dans un Fauteuil (Woman Sitting in a Chair), a jaggedy portrait in the typical Picasso style, will hit the auction block tonight at Sotheby’s. And in the scrutiny of what’s expected to be the second-most-expensive piece of art sold in the next two weeks (asking price: $20 to $30 million, in case you’re in the market), we learn how much a two-inch tear in a Picasso can cost.
Here’s the story: a lawsuit dug up on the painting reveals that in 2009, financer Teddy Forstmann’s insurance company sued an art gallery housing the portrait for a rip below the figure’s neck due to “careless, negligent, reckless, and otherwise improper handling of the work,” according to Vanity Fair's Alexandra Peers. That supposedly reduced the value of the painting by $7.5 million, the amount the insurance company paid out to Forstmann, according to the claim. Sotheby’s only slyly mentioned the repair, without fully disclosing the damage: “There is a two-inch repair below the figure’s neck where the canvas has been stitched. … Under UV light, one hairline retouching to address repair, otherwise fine.”