Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Need a buck? Steal a painting.

Last Sunday, in what has been dubbed as "one of Europe's greatest art heists", masked robbers brandishing handguns stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet from the private Buehrle Collection at a museum in Zurich, Switzerland. The paintings, “Poppies near Vetheuil” by Monet, “Count Lepic and His Daughters” by Degas, “Blossoming Chestnut Branches” by van Gogh and “The Boy in the Red Vest” by Cezanne, were worth an estimated $164 million dollars and were stolen by three men shortly before the museum closed on Sunday afternoon. While one of the robbers forced visitors and employees to lay on the ground at gunpoint his two accomplices nabbed the 19th century treasures. They proceeded to flee the scene in a white van with a painting possibly sticking out of the back of the vehicle.

Surprising, yes. Tragic, no.

As passive as it sounds, I haven't the slightest bit of sympathy for the museum and it's directors. I mean come on, the thieves walked in through the main entrance, at 4:30 p.m., on a Sunday afternoon and only had to use a mere handgun as leverage to nab the paintings. Now, I’m not suggesting that anyone should have taken a bullet for the artwork- that would have just been absurd. I am suggesting that perhaps this gallery (and others like it) amp up their security by investing in a little thing called a metal detector, tossing in a few more cameras, and beefing up their squad. It's a wonder the museum directors didn't simply leave the paintings on the sidewalk and allow passerby’s to take them on a first come first serve basis given the lack of security that was displayed.

In a news conference following the robberies the “devastated” event museum director Lukas Gloor said that the paintings were displayed behind glass panels and that an alarm was triggered as soon as they were touched. Congratulations, an alarm was present. 2 gold stars and a pat on the back for Mr. Gloor.

What use is an alarm if it does nothing to aid in the protection of the paintings?

What comes even more surprising about this particular case is that one week prior to the robbery, two paintings by Pablo Picasso were stolen from a Swiss gallery. In this heist the artworks, Head of Horse and Glass and Pitcher, were stolen after a show of the artist's work closed. An alarm was triggered at 1900 local time (1800 GMT), and shortly thereafter the guards noticed that the paintings were missing.

Maybe it's just me, but I would presume that upon hearing of a fellow gallery being robbed that other galleries and museums would take caution and amp up the security in their own buildings, but then again, perhaps Mr. Gloor missed the memo.

I’m off to
MOCA…I spotted a piece that might go for a pretty penny on the black market.


Christopher Nicholson said...

An excellent post! That was a lot of fun to read. Keep it up.

The Figueroa Post said...

Metal detector! What a concept.

Daniel Tola said...

My question is: who buys something as hot as a stolen painting? Hasn't the Mona Lisa been stolen like three times and each time it's returned because they can't sell it to anyone?

Frankly My Dear said...

After reading your post I was wondering if people would have been more shocked had the robbers come in with knives. If they threatened to damage the paintings if anyone tried to stop them, would they have still gotten away with the paintings, or would people retaliate?