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Friday, November 30, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Delacroix painting stolen from Paris art gallery


Delacroix painting stolen from Paris art gallery

A painting by famed French artist Eugene Delacroix worth 600,000 euros ($780,000) was stolen Friday from an art gallery in central Paris, an informed source said..
The work entitled "The Arabs of Oran" was painted in 1833. It was on display in a gallery on the chic rue Saint-Honore which runs parallel to the Louvre museum.
A gallery worker discovered the theft in the afternoon.

Delacroix, who lived from 1798 to 1863, was the most important member of the French Romantic movement.

Stolen Art Watch, Gordon Gold Handed To Thieves

Turner prize-winner's work stolen from Christie's

Solid gold sculpture by Douglas Gordon worth £500,000 went missing while in care of London auction house

It is a work of art by one of the world's most feted artists, the Turner prize-winning Douglas Gordon. It is also made from solid gold, with an insurance value of around £500,000 and, the Guardian has learned, the work has been stolen while in the care of Christie's, one of the most respected auction houses in the world.
The artist fears it may have been taken for the scrap value of its metal, which he estimates to be around £250,000. "I don't think this is an art theft," Gordon said. "I'm pretty sure it has been melted down."
Gordon, who won the Turner prize in 1999 and whose art is owned by museums including the Tate and New York's Museum of Modern Art, is angry at the behaviour of the auction house.
He said Christie's only told him about the disappearance of the sculpture after he had spoken about the theft elsewhere. Gordon, who owns the work, said: "It is like someone borrowing your car, and then you finding out from a neighbour that it has been crashed," he said. "It looks like I am the last person in the chain to know."
Gordon said he had first heard of the theft second-hand, from a curator, last week; a Christie's representative contacted him on the morning of 29 November, 16 days after the crime was reported to the police.
Scotland Yard confirmed it was "investigating the alleged theft of a piece of artwork from a secure warehouse in the King Street area of Westminster. The incident was first reported to police on 12 November".
A Christies's spokesman said: "This matter is under investigation and we are in contact with all parties involved. We cannot comment further." A source at the auction house said Gordon's gallery had been informed right away, and that a Christie's representative had attempted to contact the artist on 28 November.
The theft from Christie's storage facility – which claims on its website "world-class security, management and expertise" – is likely to cause significant reputational damage for the auction house. A spokesman declined to comment on arrangements at the storage facility, citing the need to keep security measures confidential. A source said: "Given the sheer volume of works of art that come in, this as an extraordinarily rare thing to happen."
The artwork, made in 2007, is called The Left Hand and the Right Hand Have Abandoned One Another. It is normally kept at Gordon's Paris gallery, Yvon Lambert. The sculpture was shown this summer at an exhibition of contemporary sculpture at Waddeston Manor, the Buckinghamshire seat of the Rothschild family now in the care of the National Trust. The work was available for private sale through Christie's, which organised the exhibition.
After the exhibition closed on 28 October, the sculpture was returned to the Christie's storage facility in London for safekeeping. According to Gordon, documentation was signed showing the sculpture had been safely received; and, following standard practice in the artworld, a condition report was completed.
But earlier this month, according to Gordon, "apparently an employee randomly picked up the box it was in – yes, the phrase 'randomly picked up' is the phrase I have heard – and discovered it was a bit light". The crate was opened and the artwork discovered to be missing.
"I had a call last Thursday [22 November] from the curator who had run the exhibition at Waddeston," said Gordon. "But I only heard from Christie's directly this morning [29 November], although I understand the police are involved. Apart from the fact it's outrageous that something might get stolen from Christie's, I still own the work and I am the creator of the work. There's something going on here about value and the way the artist is treated in all of this."
Gordon believes his gallery was told of the theft only when the sculpture was due to be taken out of the storage facility to be transported to Tel Aviv for an exhibition in January.
Curator Katrina Brown, an expert on Gordon's work, said the piece occupies a significant place in the artist's oeuvre. The hand motif, she said, has been an important part of Gordon's work since the 1990s. For example, Feature Film (1999) was a film of the conductor James Conlon conducting Bernard Herrmann's score of Hitchcock's Vertigo, "which focused on Conlon's hands as conveyers of emotion", she said. A precursor to the work in gold, Fragile Hands Collapse Under Pressure (1999), was a wax cast of the artist's hand. It was exhibited in 1999 at Sir John Soane's Museum in London.
Gordon, who was born in Glasgow and is based in Berlin, is best known for his work in film, notably his 24-Psycho, an installation in which the Hitchcock film was slowed down so it took 24 hours to run; and Zidane: A 21st-century Portrait, which followed the footballer Zinedine Zidane during a football match. He won the Turner prize in 1999. "He is best known for his film work and hardly ever makes objects," said Brown. "When he does, they tend to be pretty potent."

Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Oudry White Duck & Ashmolean Cezanne In Play, Sting, Arrests Imminent

Trip Down Memory Lane

Gypsy gangs 'stash stolen paintings'

Detectives suspect that stolen old masters worth millions are being hoarded in attics

With their stereotype image of battered caravans, rowdy children and unkempt dogs, Britain's Gypsies hardly look like the average art collectors.
But, according to senior art theft detectives, the Gypsy community in the United Kingdom has millions of pounds worth of art and antiques in its possession.
Some are among the best-known stolen works in the world. They include the famous Titian stolen from the Marquess of Bath at Longleat House five years ago and Jean-Baptiste's Oudry's classic The White Duck, a nineteenth-century oil that was stolen from Houghton Hall in Norfolk in 1992. Turners, Constables, Lowrys and the odd Cézanne may also be in the Gypsies' possession, detectives believe.
Last week Alan White, a businessman and former police informer, told The Observer that he believed The White Duck was being hidden in the attic of a remote and rundown house on moors near New-castle. White, speaking from his base in the Philippines, said that the work had been hidden shortly after the robbery and had not been moved since.
Gypsy gangs - or 'pikeys' as they are known by police and art theft investigators - are suspected of involvement in the theft of Cézanne's masterpiece. Auvers-sur-Oise, from the Ashmolean Museum in Oxford. 'The job had all the hallmarks of "pikey" involvement,' said one senior London-based art investigator last week. The theft of the £3m painting on millennium night was carried out by a burglar who created a smokescreen to foil security cameras. With the noise of his break-in masked by celebratory fireworks, the burglar cut a hole in the roof of the Ashmolean and dropped down a rope ladder into the gallery.
Having set off a smoke canister, he used a small fan to spread the smoke and obscure the view of the gallery's closed-circuit cameras before cutting the painting out of its frame and escaping. Some art investigators believe that the work was quickly passed into the hands of a Gypsy gang based in the region who 'laid it down'.
There are believed to be around a dozen such gangs operating across South-east, East and Central England.
'They are surprisingly organised,' said one art investigator. 'Every member of the gang has a designated craft and there is a high degree of co-ordination among the various teams operating in an area. They are very effective.'
The problem for thieves is that major works of art are very difficult to sell on, as their notoriety makes them hard to launder. The two paintings by Turner, Shade and Darkness: Evening of the Deluge and Light and Colour: The Morning After, that were stolen in 1994 from an exhibition in Frankfurt by Serbian gangs are thought to be still in Belgrade. Though worth £12m, the pair are impossible to sell. Detectives believe that the Longleat Titian is similarly unsaleable.
Instead stolen paintings are often used as collateral for drug deals - as is believed to be the case with the two Turners - or used to raise fraudulent loans from banks.
A number of paintings have been recovered from unlikely locations in recent years. In 1997 five Dutch old masters were found hidden in a lock-up in north London. On another occasion two Constables were recovered from a hotel room in West Drayton near Heathrow. The thieves turned out to be a second-hand car dealer and a bricklayer from Essex.
Gypsy community leaders warned against branding them all thieves. 'It's an old stereotype. Though there may be a few bad apples, it's totally unfair on the law-abiding majority to consider us all criminals just because we don't have the same lifestyle as most people,' said David, an itinerant tree surgeon working on a fairground in north London.
Art Hostage Comments:

News that the Oudry White Duck and the Ashmolean Cezanne are about to be recovered has reached Art Hostage. 

However, the intended sting operation has come apart as those with access to the stolen art have tumbled they are being set up. 

If this is indeed true then the Undercover Police Officer may be in danger or those negotiating the recovery of the Oudry White Duck and the Ashmolean Cezanne may also be in danger. 

Take this as an official warning that the imminent sting operation to recover the Oudry White Duck and the Ashmolean Cezanne and arrest those in possession as well as those who control the said White Duck and Cezanne has been blown wide open. 

The sophisticated surveillance on all concerned has proved to be the undoing of this sting operation and the intelligence is like a Swiss cheese from Wales, full of holes & leeks.

Saturday, November 24, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Hot Art, Hot Crime, Hot Stuff

Shady Deals and Art Thieves 

Hot Art by Joshua Knelman - A Review.


Warning: going to an art gallery may not be the same after you read this. What Joshua Knelman does in his debut novel Hot Art, a crime non-fiction, is compelling to say the least. Mixed with a lot of intrigue. He exposes the world of art theft – and not the one of Pierce Brosnan and Rene Russo in The Thomas Crown Affair. This is not a novel about millionaires who are bored and decide to steal art for the thrill. He interviews the major players in the lucrative world of art, from both the theft and legal perspectives and reveals the actual world of stolen art; which just so happens to be a completely enthralling one. Working as a journalist for The Walrus in Toronto, one encounter with a stolen art story had him hooked and sent him on years of research. Sounds like such a simple way to start a book, right? Trust me, after you read about this you will understand the ensuing fascination that comes from reading about this under-the-radar world.

An average experience of going to an art exhibit usually includes learning and reading the information provided or referring to any store of art history knowledge one may have. This idea of art as a cultural education/experience does a complete 180 as Knelman delves into the economy and world of art theft – a world where people make a living purely from dealing with art. Culture, history and talent reduced to its own private economy.
The novel begins with Donald Hrcyk, a detective in the LAPD, investigating an art crime. What the reader learns very quickly is how ubiquitous and under-reported art theft actually is. Most stolen art is never recovered due to both a lack of resources and manpower with police and the fact that all art deals are done on a handshake. One million dollar paintings sold without even a paper of ownership or receipt. Then add how international art deals are and a famous painting can go missing for 20 years before being rediscovered. This isn’t exactly what you think about when you’re standing in the Vancouver Art Gallery, which is exactly the reason Knelman wrote this book: to expose an unregulated and underground community.

The chapters move through interviews with big players in the art and art theft world; Knelman interviews detectives, art theft lawyer Bonnie Czegledi, ex-art thief Paul, and museum curators. Through this web of interviews and stories, Knelman gives his ‘characters’ such a real representation, and his own voice a feel of being an old friend you’re meeting for coffee. This world seems almost too fictional to be true as the author manages to capture the truth of the mysterious world while writing in a true crime, suspenseful manner. As each chapter bring the reader to a different place in the world and perspective of the art scene, it’s hard to remember to take a breath and remember you’re not the one jet-setting all because of Knelman’s engaging, interactive and fast-paced style.
The most impressive part of the book is how easy it is to sympathize with each of the character’s plight or paradigm. Whether it is a detective looking for a painting, the museum or company where the painting has been stolen, or the thief who took it so seamlessly, you will find yourself simultaneously hoping for every player to succeed. No, you’re not suffering from a multiple personality disorder, Knelman’s players are just that well developed and each story that fascinating.

Now, this is where I need to introduce you to Paul from Brighton, a major character in the story and a repeat art offender at that. His story begins in Brighton as a “knocker” who went door to door to be, well, an antique hunter.  With making some profit of course. This ‘career path’ grew into Paul organizing thieves to go back to particular homes to steal certain pieces in order to sell. From humble beginnings, Paul became a millionaire from being an ‘art dealer’. Not from dealing with Rembrandt’s and Monet’s, but from smaller, less well-known paintings. According to Paul you need to stay under the radar to not get caught. Which Paul never did, get caught that is, he was always under the radar though. It is this prototype that lawyers and detectives are trying to catch and regulate. Art is dealt with so smoothly however, that it doesn’t take long to pass from thief to dealer to an owner in another continent so quickly that by the time the cops know the deal is complete. Especially when the majority of art in the art theft world is a part of organized crime and drug deal pay offs.
Knelman takes the reader on a journey across oceans and perspectives so swiftly and intelligently that you can’t help but be left with a fascination for this new world. Especially when you realize some of the artworks you’ve seen or studied have been stolen multiple times, in ways worthy of traditional crime dramas. The author absolutely serves his purpose of spreading knowledge of what goes on behind closed doors in the art world, and with Knelman’s rapid, real and informative style, I don’t doubt there will be many readers on the brink of a career change to the art world. On the theft or legal side is still undecided, both create for pretty epic party stories, and cultured ones, naturally.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Marinello's Mission, As Art Loss Register Comes Of Age

Artful dodgers

When a priceless masterpiece goes missing, art detectives Chris Marinello and Alice Farren-Bradley are who you call, After Art Hostage That is !!

Chris Marinello is having a good day. Tomorrow, at his behest, police will raid an auction house in the south of England and seize a grandfather clock worth £200,000. The clock, which Chris believes was stolen in a raid on a Berkshire country estate in 2001, will be returned to its rightful owner. The seller will be arrested and questioned.
As Chris explains in a thick Brooklyn accent: “It’s not just any clock, it’s a Thomas Tompion – the Ferrari of clocks.”
Along with his quintessentially British assistant, Londoner Alice Farren-Bradley, 27, former New York attorney Chris, 50, runs Art Loss Register, an outfit that’s part salvage operation, part art dealership and part private detective agency. It operates in the grey area between law enforcement and the legitimate art market, tracing and recovering stolen works and antiques.
Working with Scotland Yard, Interpol and the FBI, and small-time criminals such as “Fast Freddy The Fence”, ALR has recovered tens of millions of pounds worth of lost and stolen art since 1991. The names on the spines of the files piled on Chris’ desk in his office in London’s Hatton Garden read like a Who’s Who of fine art: Cézanne, Rubens, Picasso, Degas. A white board on the wall lists the 150 cases they’re working on.
Chris points out that high-tech heists of Hollywood films are a glossy fiction. But big crimes do take place. In April, Serbian police arrested three suspects after Cézanne’s The Boy In The Red Vest was found in a car boot, after it was stolen in 2008.
“Organised gangs do sometimes become involved in stolen art, but not as a specialism,” says Alice. “They are people who have their fingers in many pies. Every now and again one of those pies happens to be a work of art.”
Up to £5billion worth of art goes missing each year. Most high-profile pieces, such as the works by Picasso, Gauguin and Matisse recently looted in Rotterdam, sink into the criminal underworld where they are used to buy drugs and weapons.
High-end stolen art is impossible to sell on the open market, so is traded by criminals for a fraction of its true value. Often it disappears for decades, passed between people, until it resurfaces, usually when the original thief has long gone.
ALR is currently seeing items up for sale that were stolen during WW2. People who often have no idea of the history of the items in their possession put them on the market, only to discover that they were looted.
“Most art thieves don’t have a plan,” explains Chris. “They think maybe they will take their loot to a country with less stringent checks, maybe Russia or France. But we are there, checking every market. Sometimes thieves will wait for an insurance company to get involved and then try to ransom the item. Sometimes they hold on to it as a bargaining chip in case they get arrested. And sometimes they call us.”
This is where Chris and Alice’s work gets murky. Police resources are stretched and the bureaucracy of international law enforcement can reduce the chances of a successful recovery. So, with the blessing of the authorities, Chris and Alice execute their own operations and undercover stings.
“We prefer to have the guys with the badges do the dangerous stuff, but occasionally when the theft is too old for the police to have an interest, we get involved. Ninety per cent of what we do is negotiating with criminals, handlers and purchasers,” says Chris.
One case, which Chris can’t discuss in detail for legal reasons, involves a renowned art thief and a Picasso.
“It was stolen in North America back in the ’70s,” he explains. “I met my contact in the Musée D’Orsay cafe in Paris to discuss its return. As far as police are concerned, they don’t have enough to charge him, but we know he spent time in prison for art theft and we know he had some sticky fingers around the gallery where the piece went missing.”
The team stresses that they work together with the police and offer their services to them for free. Clients, including insurance companies, art dealers, collectors and museums, pay to search the ALR database and to register stolen items.
“Sometimes the authorities come to the conclusion that they don’t have sufficient information to prosecute or they don’t have an interest. In that situation, we say to the person holding the art: ‘This item is on the system as stolen, so you will not be able to sell it on the legitimate market. It’s entirely worthless, so it’s in your best interests to return it,’” says Alice.
“Criminals are looking for money or information and they look to us as a way out of their predicament,” continues Chris. “And sometimes they just want to do the right thing.”
This was the scenario faced by Fast Freddy. He approached ALR with some stolen paintings he had “come across” and helped Chris and Alice return them to their owner. Often crooks hope to cash in on rewards offered; other times they find art that can’t be sold is better off out of their hands.
“Freddy’s what you’d call a connecting element at the lower end of the art market. He connects criminals with art handlers. He calls in regularly with tips. He’s like a cross between Only Fools And Horses and Lovejoy,” laughs Alice.
While crooks look to ALR for help, the art world often shuns them because identifying a disputed item hampers sales.
“You get to meet some really nasty people who couldn’t give a damn if the piece they want to sell was stolen from a Holocaust victim,” says Chris.
“I’ve been manhandled from stands at art fairs, literally shoved away,” reveals Alice. “We’ve been accused of being worse than the Nazis, and my personal favourite is that I am taking the romance out of the art market.”
Alice has been working at the firm for three years. She studied archaeology and Classics, and then went to law school. She regularly poses as a buyer or dealer to identify work.
“I’m not usually in danger. The only time there could have been a problem was when my real name was inadvertently given out by a colleague. Luckily, I hadn’t been at ALR for long, but it was enough to make the dealer suspicious and back off.”
Early last year, ALR had one of their quickest successes.
A nude print by Czech photographer František Drtikol was taken from a museum in Prague in daylight on a busy Sunday. The next day, the £310,000 work was listed on the ALR database as stolen and a day later a dealer in New York called to check on a piece he was being offered.
Chris says: “We alerted police, but they couldn’t do anything without international procedures being in place. We advised the dealer to get the seller to courier it to him. We intercepted it and handed it to plain-clothes Czech police officers and the museum director in a pub around the corner from here.”
While Chris and Alice are happy to talk about much of their work, their biggest success remains shrouded in secrecy.
“It was a Monet worth £37million,” offers Chris. “It had been taken by the Nazis and, years later, ended up with a billionaire who was selling it. It had been in a vault in Switzerland for 20 years. It’s now back with the family of the original owner.”

Artful dodgers

When a priceless masterpiece goes missing, art detectives Chris Marinello and Alice Farren-Bradley are who you call

Read more:

Artful dodgers

When a priceless masterpiece goes missing, art detectives Chris Marinello and Alice Farren-Bradley are who you call

Read more:

Tuesday, November 13, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Pretoria Museum Art Heist Stunt, Art Recovered

Stolen art found in PE cemetery 


Cape Town -Some of the pieces of art stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum during a brazen robbery were found in Port Elizabeth on Tuesday, reports said.

According to Algoa FM, police recovered four of the stolen items in a cemetery in the city.

"Our dog unit of Port Elizabeth received information from an informer which led them to the Dutch Reformed Church in Sundridge Park.

"At the back of the property they found four paintings and it seems to be similar to the paintings that were stolen in the Gauteng area," police spokesperson Captain Sandra Janse van Rensburg was quoted as saying.

The whereabouts of the fifth stolen painting is unknown.

The pieces were stolen from the museum's permanent collection on Sunday when thieves posing as art students staged a daring arm robbery.

"Three men, under the pretence of being students and their art lecturer, asked to view specific pieces. After they were shown the paintings, they then tied up the museum official at gunpoint and took off with six paintings," mayoral spokesperson Pieter de Necker said on Monday.

"They left one painting [by] Irma Stern behind. Presumably because it was too big to fit into their [getaway] car."

According to museum staff, the thieves arrived with a "shopping list" of what they wanted, and demanded to be given specific paintings, Sapa reported.

After holding staff member Dawood Khan at gunpoint, they took out their list, and demanded to know where the paintings were.

De Necker hinted that growing international demand for South African artwork might have been the reason for the robbery.

He said he and others believe the thieves were commissioned to go after those specific pieces because of their behaviour at the museum, according to AP.

"We're very, very surprised. It is very uncommon," he said.

"We have realised also that over the last few years ... the overseas market has grown into wanting South African art."

The robbers favoured oil paintings in their theft, grabbing a 1931 painting by artist Irma Stern of brightly coloured fishing boats waiting against a pier (Fishing Boats), a gouache drawing of an eland and bird (Eland And Bird - 1961) by landscape artist JH Pierneef, a pastel-toned street scene (Street Scene) by Gerard Sekoto, a thick-stroked oil painting of a chief (Hottentot Chief) by Hugo Naude and a 1936 picture of a cat near a vase full of petunias (Cat And Petunias) by Maggie Laubser.

The museum closed provisionally, and will re-open on 20 November.

It took precautionary steps by removing other valuable pieces and security has been tightened.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Armed Raid At Pretoria Art Museum Nets Five Paintings Worth $2 Million Bucks

Breaking News:
Pretoria -A prominent Pretoria artist is suspected to be behind the brazen robbery in which three men made off with paintings worth R17.5 million from the Pretoria Art Museum.
The artist allegedly commissioned the men to steal the masterpieces for him, the Pretoria News has been told.
On Monday, Crime Line received a tip-off regarding the robbery. The head of Crime Line, Yusuf Abramjee, said the information had been passed on to police to follow up.

Paintings worth $2 Million stolen from PTA museum

 Five paintings valued at about U.S. $2 million were stolen from the Pretoria Art Museum in Arcadia on Sunday morning, Gauteng police said.

Three men had paid an admission fee of R10 to enter the museum where they pretended to be viewing some of the artworks, Lt-Col Katlego Mogale said.

"Once inside they pointed a firearm at the person at the counter and demanded certain paintings," she said.

The robbers took five paintings and fled the scene in a silver Toyota Avanza.

Authorities said the robbers stole specific paintings, but were forced to leave behind a painting by well-known artist Irma Stern because it did not fit in their silver sedan car, AFP reports.
The gunmen escaped with another Stern painting, Fishing boats, South Africa's Times Live newspaper reports.
Other paintings stolen include Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias, JH Pierneef's Eland and Bird, Hugo Naude's Hottentot Chief and Gerard Sekoto's Street scene, it reports.

No arrests were made and a case of armed robbery had been opened.


Reacting to Sunday's brazen robbery, in which five paintings estimated at around R15 million were stolen, DA spokesman Johan Welmans blamed the municipality.

"I have alerted the Tshwane metro about the lack of commitment towards this institution for a long time. The impression I got is that the Pretoria Art Museum is simply not a priority for the ANC-led Tshwane metro," he said.

"The DA has been concerned about the management of the museum for a long time. The reported value of R15 million lost is relative if one considers that this fine art is irreplaceable," said Welmans.

However, Pieter de Necker, spokesman for Tshwane Mayor Kgosientso Ramokgopa, said the robbery was a wakeup call for museums across the country.

"It is unfortunate the CCTV cameras were not working this weekend. A fault was reported on Thursday and has been fixed today," said de Necker.

"Security at museums should be improved. This incident calls for extra measures to be implemented," he said.

De Necker said the security concerns were not confined to the DA but were shared amongst many people in South Africa.

"It [security] is a concern for many museums across the country. The criminals walked in like art lovers and robbed the museum at gunpoint," he said.

The Pretoria Art Museum was manned by private security guards. On Sunday, three security officials were protecting the facility, said De Necker.

He said the municipality was providing counseling service for the "traumatised" personnel who endured the robbery.

The Beeld newspaper reported on Monday that the five paintings seized included an Irma Stern, worth R9 million, and a Gerard Sekoto, worth R7 million.

A sixth painting, Irma Stern's "Two Malay Musicians", valued at R12 million, was dumped on the pavement outside the museum after the robbery, apparently because the criminals were unable to fit it into their getaway car, a silver Toyota Avanza.

They also made off with Maggie Laubser's "Cat and Petunias", valued at R1 million, JH Pierneef's "Eland and Bird", valued at R45,000, and Hugo Naude's "Hottentot Chief", worth R300,000.

According to museum staff, the thieves arrived with a "shopping list" of what they wanted, and demanded to be given specific paintings.

After holding staff member Daywood Khan at gunpoint, they took out their list, and demanded to know where the paintings were.

Museum curator Dirk Oegema said the robbery would be discussed at an urgent management meeting on Monday.

Art expert Stephen Welz said the theft was a tragedy, but that he was puzzled by it, as famous works of art were so well documented that it was nearly impossible to sell them, locally or abroad.

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Matisse Sting Duo Admit Guilt


Matisse pair plead guilty over sale of stolen painting

Two people have pleaded guilty to trying to sell a $3m (£1.8m) Henri Matisse painting stolen from a museum in Venezuela nearly 10 years ago.
The pair were caught in an FBI undercover operation at a Miami hotel in July.
Pedro Antonio Marcuello Guzman, 46, faces 10 years in jail for conspiracy to transport and sell stolen property, while Maria Martha Elisa Ornelas Lazo, 50, faces five years.
The pair will be sentenced in January.
The 1925 painting Odalisque in Red Pants had been hanging in the Caracas Museum of Contemporary Art.
Replaced with forgery The painting depicts a bare-chested woman sitting cross-legged on the floor wearing a pair of scarlet trousers.
In 2003 the museum discovered the original artwork had been replaced with a forgery after an art collector reported it was being offered for sale in New York.
A court heard Mr Guzman, from Miami, was negotiating the sale and transportation of the Matisse for approximately $740,000 (£458,000) from Mexico by Ms Ornelas Lazo.
The pair were arrested when the painting was handed over to undercover FBI agents posing as buyers in Miami.
The FBI's National Stolen Art File database lists five other missing Matisse works, including a collection of 62 sketches.
His works were also among those stolen from a museum in Rotterdam in October. Thieves also stole paintings by Monet and Picasso.