They house objects worth tens of thousands to millions of dollars that can be as easy to transport as a large piece of paper. Yet they are often nonprofits with modest budgets that cannot afford adequate security systems.
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Hollywood enjoys filming sequences of art thieves dodging mazes of laser sensors and replacing security camera footage, but actual thefts look much less high tech. A thief burst into the Museum of Modern Art in Stockholm with a sledgehammer and stole a million dollar Matisse.
The men who recently stole works by Gauguin, Picasso, and Lucian Freud from the Kunsthal - a Dutch museum - broke through an emergency exit door using pliers. One of the thieves, who is now in custody, plans to sue the museum for negligence, claiming that it made his robbery too easy. Robert K.
Most declare art theft a lucrative enterprise whose billions per year proceeds are second only to the profits of drug dealing. And that is not an option once a theft has made headlines around the world.
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The problem with selling stolen art is that the source of its value - its fame - also makes it impossible to sell for its full worth. Today, this is equally true even of artwork whose theft does not make the front pages.
Thanks to the Internet, however, it is now easy for auction houses and dealers to check whether a work has been stolen on databases of stolen art maintained by Interpol or the Art Loss Register.
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So how do criminals profit from art theft? Profiting from stolen art One solution is to steal artwork on commission for a private collector. The collector is unlikely to offer the full price, but stealing on commission removes all the risk for the thieves of trying to find a buyer. Which in the art world, where pliers have been used to steal million dollar paintings, can seem like the only risk.
For this reason, investigators believe museum employees and curators who steal pieces for personal enjoyment to be a major source of art theft. There are, however, two major players in the art world who continue to see the stolen work as extremely valuable: the museum from which the art was stolen and the insurance company on the hook for covering the full cost of the stolen pieces.
According to an excellent article in the New York Times Magazineit is the desire of the original owners and their insurers to reclaim stolen artwork that makes them valuable.
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The managing director of the Art Loss Register, which itself negotiates the return of stolen artwork in return for a commission, told The Guardian that he suspects as much. The difficulty involved in successfully profiting from the return of a well-known piece of art means that the optimal strategy may be in stealing expensive but lesser known works.
Although the market price of such works is lower, the lack of publicity means it has a higher chance of entering the legitimate market to earn its market price. One obvious reason why is that six figure paintings attract less legal attention than their more lucrative cousins.
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In contrast, less famous art, even if expensive, is treated as a low priority, especially in the United States: Most art crime investigations are run by the same local F. Art and antiquity crime is tolerated, in part, because it is considered a victimless crime.
Dealers who would introduce fleeced artwork to the legitimate market also enjoy what can be stolen to make money protection from the unclear legal jurisdiction of stolen art. Even if a piece is stolen in a country like the U. This gives an owners an incentive to negotiate a deal that involves paying a nominal fee, or even the black market value, for the return of the artwork, and makes legal action against dealers less certain.
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It's hard to say how much money is being made stealing art. We know that billions of dollars worth are stolen each year, but not how much money criminals convert that into.
Museums, collectors, and insurers keep quiet about paying for the return of their art.
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Of the unrecovered pieces, it's hard to say how much is destroyed, neglected in storage, or hanging in the penthouses of private collectors. But criminals can profit from a stolen piece of art without ever selling it. Even if a thief struggles to find a buyer for an artwork, its potential worth allows it to play a useful role as a piece of collateral.
Banks long accepted paintings as collateral, giving criminals credit lines usually unavailable to those without legitimate income sources, although banks now check the same stolen art databases as auction houses and art dealers.
But paintings can still be used as payment or collateral with other criminals for drug deals or borrowing money. Four other paintings — including a Gainsborough, a Goya and a Vermeer — were taken to Antwerp, where a diamond dealer accepted them as collateral and advanced [the thief] a large sum of money, with which he tried to start an offshore bank in the Bahamas. Its theft inspired a national scandal that rocketed the easiest way to trade binary options painting to fame: The French accused JP Morgan of commissioning its theft, as well as the Kaiser and Pablo Picasso.
Peruggia made several attempts to sell the painting, until a dealer contacted the police and turned him in two years after the original theft. He had sold a forged Mona Lisa to an American millionaire, but the man boasted about his stolen masterpiece so much that a Parisian newspaper wrote an article about the theft of the Mona Lisa.
According to Valfierno, he what can be stolen to make money Peruggia to steal the Mona Lisa so that his buyers would have no doubt about the originality of their purchase. Instead, he had a forger prepare six copies of the Mona Lisa, which he then sold to six different people once news of the theft broke. Thanks to the publicity the burglary received, Valfierno felt sure that his customers would neither boast about their purchase nor risk hiring an expert to examine their Mona Lisa.
This post was written by Alex Mayyasi.