Art Heist

by Marinka on April 18, 2010

A little while ago, I was reading about an art heist. In this economy, it just makes sense to explore all money making options.

And this was a good one. The Gardner Museum in Boston, in March 1990. Unsolved for more than twenty year. Over half a billion dollars of paintings lifted.

Impressive, right?

Except I started thinking. What the fuck do you do with all that art once you stole it?
I mean, I get that there’s a black market and that someone probably ordered the Rembrandt or the Degas, but once they get it, the art collector, what do they do with it?
I sort of thought that one of the great things about owning important art is showing it off to others who own less important art. You know, to prove that you’re a lover of culture.

But these suckers can’t exactly display it or lend it to a museum. So they have to build a secret room or something and then go and look at it when no one’s watching. That kind of stress would totally do me in.

And what if after a while they got kind of sick of it?

I can imagine the dinner table conversation.

Wife: Would it have killed them to pick up a Monet? I’ve always loved the water lilies.
Husband: Monet can’t hold a candle to Rembrandt and Degas.
Wife: You mean, Degass.
Husband: Now, Myra-
Wife: I. can’t. look.at.it.anymore. One Monet! That’s all I ever wanted. One Monet…

Not many couples can survive that kind of artistic tension.

Unless the art went to different black market collectors. In which case, they probably all do have get-togethers and reminisce about the whole thing. And maybe they even swap some of the stolen pieces. That’s certainly the most democratic way to go about it.

I tried quizzing Husbandrinka about it but he didn’t seem to want to talk about it. All he said was that “people who do this are very different from you and me,” which seems to be the kind of thing you say when you have a Vermeer in your closet and don’t want the light shining on it.
“Right,” I conceded, “but what’s their plan?”
“Because they are different from you and me, I don’t know their plans,” he told me. Because apparently with people like us, he knows all their plans. As a matter of fact, feel free to ask him about your own plans in the coming weeks. If you forgot your Day Planner, he’ll be happy to fill you in.

And then it came to me. Of course. The best way to hide the stolen art is in plain sight. Like us, for example. We don’t own any art, our walls are bare (“Like a federal penitentiary,” papa once commented.) If we hung one of the masterpieces on our walls, no one would suspect that it was real.

Maybe that’s the solution?

Maybe the art thieves will see this post and reach out to me?

I mean, it’s the Obama years, what’s yours is mine, right?

One year ago ...

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{ 21 comments… read them below or add one }

christy April 18, 2010 at 4:48 pm

So funny – and I’ve always wondered the same thing really. And jewels – what do they do with hugely famous stolen gems? I’d totally volunteer to wear them around town for them! ha!

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Suzy
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 5:29 pm

I have a painting that an ex-bf gave me that is Monet-esque. I hated it until one day I had to put something over my desk. A more recent bf came by one night and asked me if it was a Monet and I replied, “Would I be living in this hole if it was? I’d be in Bel-Air and a butler would have just let you in.”

He gave me the blankest look.

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anonymous educator
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 5:37 pm

I think first you need to decide whether you want to be stealing art or buying stolen art. I think you want to be stealing it, in which case the motivations of the buyers are interesting to think about but ultimately irrelevant. You need to figure out who to sell it to.

I do wonder how much of a discount there is for stolen art that is too famous to display openly. The reports tell you what the museum paid, or maybe what it got at auction, but clearly when someone buys stolen art they should pay less because they are getting less. Worth thinking about when you decide where to book vacations etc.

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anna see April 18, 2010 at 6:01 pm

maybe it’s just me, but the whole proposition sounds exhausting. i guess i’ll stick w/ my min wage job.

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Lanie Ree
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 7:18 pm

I’m pretty sure the statute of limitations for theft is 7 years. So after that, you can display it openly.

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Marinka April 18, 2010 at 8:46 pm

That is fantastic news! And twenty years is almost three times the statute of limitations, so that means that not only will they not get prosecuted, but they’ll probably get an extra prize, too. Like the Mona Lisa.

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anonymous educator
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Well, you might not get prosecuted but the person or place you stole it from can certainly sue you to get it back. Maybe not enough of a threat to keep you from showing it.

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Noelle April 18, 2010 at 9:08 pm

Well thanks for the great idea, Marinka! My husband just retired from the Air Force, so I think now in lieu of looking for a job we’ll just start looking for the stolen art and our $5 million reward!

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Soccermom April 18, 2010 at 9:22 pm

I think that’s a kickass idea, if happen upon any cool art, be sure to share the love. I could use some new paintings.

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the mama bird diaries
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 9:47 pm

Hmm… I’m not sure. But I know that David on Melrose Place has made a lot of money selling stolen art. So maybe ask the writers of Melrose Place.

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Wendy
Twitter:
April 18, 2010 at 10:03 pm

I’d like to know what my plan for the week is. Will i get any writing done? Or just watch my recordings of Idol, Survivor and As the World Turns?

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Sophie April 19, 2010 at 6:44 am

Dang. Now the feds will come snooping after my Modigliani (original print from the museum shop, I swear!).

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Slow Panic
Twitter:
April 19, 2010 at 9:15 am

maybe it’s like one of those traveling supper club things — they just pass the art around every month so they don’t get tired of it…

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anonymous educator
Twitter:
April 19, 2010 at 10:06 am

From this 1979 article in Time Magazine: “Let me dispel some myths,” said Gilbert Raguideau, a French government expert on the subject. “There is no mastermind, no international art Mafia. We all have heard the legend of the mad, rich connoisseur who buys stolen masterworks. He does not exist.”

Boo.

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Marinka April 19, 2010 at 10:51 am

Ok, so first of all that was in 1979, when scientists still thought that the world was flat. Secondly, of course that’s what Gilbert wants us to think. Because he’s probably head of the international art mafia. And now that he knows that I know, I can’t guarantee my own safet–

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anonymous educator
Twitter:
April 19, 2010 at 12:35 pm

I’m suspicious too.

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alexandra
Twitter:
April 19, 2010 at 10:35 am

Again, papa steals the show.
Although, husbandrinka comes in close second with his,”since they are different from you and me, we don’t know their plans.”

Hilarious, all around. Wish our dinner conversations were like that.

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Denise April 19, 2010 at 10:48 am

Great post. I have always wondered what they do with the art too. You and you husband seem to be polar opposites. I guess it’s true that opposites attract. Good luck if you decide to go into art theft. By the wya I don’t think a statute of limitatioins applies here. I recall several years back some art that was stolen from a Jewish family during Hitler and I thgouth that it was returned to the rightful famliy. They had to prove it was ther family’s original possession by providingin documents. Maybe you can get ittot conterfiting the proper documents. I would suggest Monet or Renoir. You can’t ever go wrong with either.

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Wendi
Twitter:
April 19, 2010 at 12:00 pm

Please tell me Kelcey didn’t really leave a comment citing Melrose Place.

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dusty earth mother April 19, 2010 at 12:46 pm

yes! I’ve always wondered the same thing, what the heck do they do with it once it’s “heist”-ed? You crack me up.

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Rachel Cotterill April 19, 2010 at 3:07 pm

Yeah, I’ve always wondered about the people who buy these paintings. I’m sure they’re not cheap on the black market. Why not just save up and buy something legit instead?! Otherwise you’ll always have to pretend it’s a print…..

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