The recent Parisian art heist is said to be the greatest in history due to the stolen paintings’ value as well as the museum’s location. On May 20, 2010, five paintings with an estimated worth of approximately $123 million (100 million Euros) were stealthily taken from the Paris Museum of Modern Art. The bounty included work by Fernand Leger, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani, Henri Matisse and possibly the most famous artist in the world, Pablo Picasso. Thought to be the work of an individual, the work disappeared overnight while three armed guards were on duty. This tragedy raises the questions of why and how the work was stolen and if it will ever be recovered.
With every art collector, museum director and police officer on high alert, the paintings will have no chance of being sold on the open market without notice. However, if taken to the black market, the paintings could be used as collateral by Colombian drug dealers or as ransom for an insurance payout. More than likely, if sold on the black market, the art will not end up in the hands of an art enthusiast. Some officials speculate it will be sold to wealthy individuals in countries like Russia or China who likely would not check the background of the works.
According to an article in the New York Times, “police and museum officials said little about the security failure, particularly about whether the alarm system had malfunctioned or had been disabled.” The museum’s management had been aware of a problem with the security system since March, even though in 2004 the museum closed for two years to upgrade the system at the cost of $19 million. That the thief could have known about a possible flaw in the security system suggests the possibility of inside help. The black-clad burglar worked swiftly and effectively. Instead of cutting the works out of the frames, they were carefully removed, leaving the frames behind for the police to inspect. The guards discovered the paintings missing around 7 a.m., and the museum has been closed ever since to try and follow the clues. Mayor Bertrand Delanoë of Paris wants an internal investigation to take place, as this is not the first time artwork has been stolen from a Parisian museum. “Last summer, a thief snatched a red sketchbook of 33 Picasso drawings from the Picasso Museum while it was undergoing renovations. Security alarms did not sound in that case, either” (http://nyti.ms/alM0Ku).
Hopes of recovering the stolen art are slim, as it could take decades and most will not be found. “The Art Loss Register, the world’s largest database of lost and stolen art, puts that figure [chances of recovering the artwork] at 12 to 15 percent” (http://bit.ly/9FakA1). Action has to be taken quickly as clues will become more indistinct in a short time.