This past year, the art market saw some of the highest auction prices ever. Topping the charts was the famous painting by Edvard Munch, The Scream, which Sotheby’s auctioned off in May for $119.9 million. However, some people just weren’t willing to pay these kinds of prices. They resorted instead to burgling. INFURN helps us take a look back at 2012 to identify some of the biggest art heists of the year.
▪ Composition (A) En Rouge Et Blanc (1936) by Piet Mondrian
In September, a burglar broke into Jeffrey Gundlach’s home in Los Angeles and stole his collection of priceless artworks, which included pieces by Jasper Johns, Richard Diebenkorn and Piet Mondrian. Later that month, Gundlach helped investigators recover the stolen art by offering an ingenious tip: he told them to check the records of Google searches. Two of the works taken by the thief were amateur paintings by Gundlach’s grandmother, Helen Fuchs. A quick check verified that the term “Helen Fuchs” had been searched twice in that month—once by Jeffrey and once by the thieves! The stolen items were recovered.
▪ Harlequin Head (1971) by Pablo Picasso
▪ Reading Girl in White and Yellow (1919) byHenri Matisse
▪ Waterloo Bridge, London (1901) & Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901) by Claude Monet
▪ Girl in Front of Open Window (1888) by Paul Gauguin
▪ Self-Portrait (1891) by Meyer de Haan
▪ Woman with Eyes Close (2002) by Lucian Freud
By far the biggest haul of the year, these seven famous paintings were taken from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam. The burglars broke into the museum at night, triggering the alarm system. But when the police arrived just five minutes later, there was no one in sight and not a clue left behind. None of the pieces have been recovered and there appear to be no significant leads. The sum value of the stolen works has been estimated at over $161 million.
▪ Composition aux Element Mecaniques (1917) by Fernand Léger
Back in 2011, Mark Lugo of New Jersey stole this Léger painting from a New York hotel, in addition to a Picasso drawing from a San Francisco gallery. This year police finally pinpointed Lugo as the culprit, and when they raided his apartment they found more stolen artworks and a stolen bottle of wine worth $6,000.
▪ Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio (1949) by Salvador Dalí
In June a man walked into the Venus Over Manhattan gallery in New York, pulled this Dalí drawing off the wall right in front of security cameras, and strolled out. He must have been a master of sneakiness, because neither the staff nor the security tapes could help investigators identify the man. Fortunately for the gallery, the thief seems to have been doing it for some motive other than money, because later that month they received an anonymous package in the mail containing the drawing.
▪ The Left Hand and the Right Hand Have Abandoned One Another (2007) by Douglas Gordon
This sculpture, consisting of two life-sized hands cast in solid yellow gold, mysteriously went missing from Christie’s storage facility back in November. The piece was worth an estimated $800,000 and a likely $403,000 in scrap metal. Artist Douglas Gordon said he believes the sculpture has almost certainly been melted down and sold by now.
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