Picasso is the most stolen artist in the world with more than 1,000 of his pieces of work missing
By Rob Cooper
27th January 2012
Appeal: The Art Loss Register offer a $25,000 reward for the return of the missing painting Madeleine Leaning on Her Elbow with Flowers in Her Hair
Pablo Picasso is the artist who has more works stolen than anyone else, according to new research.
The Spanish master currently has 1,147 paintings registered as stolen, missing or disputed, which is more than twice as many as the next on the list.
That figure rose recently when his 1939 work 'Woman's Head' was pinched from the Athens' National Art Gallery in Greece.
The Art Loss Register has compiled a list of artists who have had the highest number of works stolen and the countries where the art is mostly taken from, with Britain being the most vulnerable place.
The database lists all the stolen, missing and disputed works of art around the world.
Coming second to Picasso is the modern American artist Nick Lawrence who has 557 stolen works. Most of them went missing in one go in 2004.
In third place is Marc Chagall, the Russian-French 20th century all-rounder, who has 516 stolen works.
Karel Appel, the Dutch painter and sculptor, comes fourth with 505 stolen works, just ahead of Salvador Dali with 504. Joan Miro, David Levine, Andy Warhol, Rembrandt and Peter Reinicke make up the rest of the top ten.
Other artists on the list include Henri Matisse with 205 missing works, Rubens with 169, John Constable with 155 and Thomas Gainsborough with 97.
The Art Loss Register has also revealed that 40 per cent of thefts occurred in Britain and 16 per cent of them were in America.
Stolen: Painting of a 'Dove with Green Peas' by Pablo Picasso, was taken from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris in 2010 in the art heist of the century. There are fears it may have been destroyed. Woman's Head, was recently taken from the Athens National Art Gallery
While metal sculpture thefts have been on the rise in Britain because of the high prices of scrap, valuable works of art have long been stolen to order. They are often used as currency among criminals.
Detective Constable Ian Lawson, from the Metropolitan police's art and antiques department, said art theft was an 'ongoing problem'.
He said: 'There has certainly been an increase in the theft of statues because the price of metal has gone up.
Raided: Marc Chagall's 1914 oil on canvas Study for Over Vitebsk which was taken from New York's Jewish Museum in 2001
PAINTING HEISTS: THE TOP 10 MOST STOLEN ARTISTS IN THE WORLD
The top 10 list of artists with most works stolen:
1) Pablo Picasso - 1,147
2) Nick Lawrence - 557
3) Marc Chagall - 516
4) Karel Appel - 505
5) Salvador Dali - 505
6) Joan Miro - 478
7) David Levine - 343
7) Andy Warhol - 343
9) Rembrandt - 337
10) Peter Reinicke - 336
'War memorials and plaques are being taken for the same reason. They are easily melted down and it then becomes hard to prove what they are.'
He added that there were two types of art criminal - burglars who chance upon good paintings and those who steal to order.
'With other types of art there are really two categories of criminals. One is a burglar who breaks into a million pound house and strikes lucky,' he said.
'He steals a valuable painting and doesn't really know what to do with it. It might be sold on through a car boot sale or at an antiques fair.
'That's often what happens for art that is worth less than £10,000 or £20,000.
'But there are also organised gangs which target country houses and specific high-value art - such as the The Johnson family from Cheltenham.
'They targeted venues that they had researched, and had outlets for the art.
Rembrandt: The Child and the Soap Bubble which was stolen from the Draguignan municpal museum in southestern France
'Often the paintings are stolen and later are offered back to the owners or the insurance company for a tenth of the real value.
'That can be quite tempting for insurers. An example was the theft of the Madonna of the Yardwinder that was worth £50m and was stolen from a castle in Scotland.
'It was apparently offered back to the owners and several people were arrested but were not convicted.
'The other way art is used is as a currency in the underworld. The art is exchanged for drugs or guns.
'Art is easier to take abroad because customs officials won't suspect a painting as being stolen, but if someone took guns or drugs they would be arrested.
'And if a painting has been missing for many years it is quite easy for someone to claim legitimate ownership and it can be very difficult to prove otherwise.'
Charlotte Veenhuijzen, from the ALR, said: 'The Art Loss Register is the world's largest privately managed international database of over 360,000 lost, stolen and looted works of art and antiques and items in dispute.
'It has been collating historical data from private and public sources since its inception in 1990, many of these sources are not available in the public domain and are extremely hard to replicate.
Andy Warhol: Painting of Muhammad Ali which was taken in a raid on a Los Angeles home in September 2009. Orange Marilyn, arguably the artist's most famous work, was also taken
Stolen sketch: Salvador Dali sketch on the back of a restaurant menu was stolen from a house in Sherborne, Dorset. It is worth £30,000
'Registrations include losses and claims from museums, governments, banks, insurance companies, law enforcement agencies, including Interpol, and private individuals.
'The ALR offers itself world-wide as a central database checkpoint for due diligence enquiries and provenance research.
'Our pre-eminence in the field of stolen art has allowed the business to be instrumental in the recovery of over 160 million pounds' worth of stolen items
'We have around 1,147 lost, stolen, in dispute, in liens items registered by Picasso.
'And the ALR has been involved in the recovery of around 29 works by Picasso.'
Ivan Macquisten, editor of the Antiques Trade Gazette, said: 'Looking at most of the names in the top ten, they are all well-known artists who had very long careers, so produced vast volumes of work, which means there is more, potentially, available to steal.
'Picasso's work, as well as being highly valuable, is almost endless, while Chagall lived until he was 97 and Karel Appel started as a teenager, dying when he was well into his eighties.
'Andy Warhol didn't call his workshop the 'factory' for nothing - we're talking industrial quantities of art.
'And David Levine, amazingly, got an audition as an illustrator for Disney at the age of nine, before going on to a career as an illustrator for some of America's leading magazines, producing iconic images.'