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May. 20 2010 - 10:01 am | 370 views | 0 recommendations | 1 comment

More than $600 Million Worth of Paintings Stolen from Paris Museum (updated)

News has just come in that last night more than $600 million dollars worth of very famous paintings were stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art. Works stolen include Picasso’s Le pigeon aux petits-pois, and works by Georges Braque, Matisse, and Modigliani. More news on this will surely emerge in the next few hours, but safe to say this is one of the biggest art heists pulled off in recent memory. The works stolen are landmark paintings that once gone off museum walls go underground quickly.

The Guardian reports that the thief was caught on camera taking the paintings.

The burglary was discovered just before 7am. A single masked intruder was caught on a CCTV camera taking the paintings away, according to the Paris prosecutor’s office. A window had been broken and the padlock of a grille giving access to the museum was smashed. The paintings appeared to have been carefully removed from their frames, rather than sliced out.”

Update: Bloomberg is reporting that the $600 million dollar figure affixed to these paintings is incorrect and inflated.

The paintings are together worth about 100 million euros ($123 million,) Christophe Girard, the Paris city official responsible for culture said as he visited the scene of the crime today. He dismissed earlier reports putting the value as high as 500 million euros. The heist was ‘well organized,’ Girard said.”

This new figure does seem low, considering that in early May Picasso’s Nude, Green Leaves and Bust (1932) went for $106.4 million at Christie’s. The Picasso painting stolen from the Paris Museum of Modern Art was executed in 1911 and considered part of the middle period of cubism.

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As several stories have pointed out, these paintings are so well known that no reputable dealer or collector would purchase them if offered. If the paintings are not found, it is likely they will be hidden away until discovered. For the art loving public, it is a huge loss not to be able to see these paintings in a museum setting.

This heist also comes very close after the 20th anniversary of the of the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist, which was the largest art theft in history. That night, March 18, 1990, thieves made off with 13 paintings by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Degas, and Manet, among others, valued at over $500 million dollars.


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  1. collapse expand

    Totally The Thomas Crown Affair. Anyone check Pierce Brosnan’s whereabouts?

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    About Me

    I am a Brooklyn-based writer and editor covering arts and culture. I was an editor at Art & Antiques magazine, an editor at Picador USA, and an editor for a magazine about coffee and tea. On the best of days, I get to write about art, or work on fiction. My writing can be found on the Huffington Post, The Rumpus, and in Art & Antiques, Art in America, Tin House, Willamette Week, San Francisco magazine, Food Network Magazine, and Fresh Cup magazine. I also write about and promote the arts for Columbia University in New York.

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    An essay on the painter Robert Vickrey for The Rumpus.