What Makes Art Heists so Fascinating?

We all love movies, especially the kinds where the good guy beats up the bad guy and wins the maiden’s hand. We can watch the same kind of movie repeatedly and feel warm about it. The feel good feeling rubs off on you and you are rehttp://evangelicaloutpost.com/archives/2010/05/thief-top-10-art-heists.htmlady to spread goodness all around.

Among the audience, there are a handful of movie buffs who prefer their hero with a naughty streak. The not–so–good hero manages with his cleverness and daring to steal highly acclaimed art pieces and his feat endear him to the audience. We applaud his accomplishment unmindful of the fact that what he is in fact accomplishing a robbery.

Two and a half decades ago, paintings worth nearly 500 million USD were stolen from the Isabella Stewart Gardener Museum in Boston. None of the masterpieces have been recovered and though the identity of the robbers has been known with a fair degree of certainty, none of them have been apprehended.

Even from ancient times art has always been appreciated and valued. Invaders and raiders down the ages have always had their eye on art pieces and it has always been an item of currency. Right from the people who raided the pyramids to the Nazis, art has always been plundered. The biggest thieves have always been governments, but the notion of gentleman thieves who steal art just because they can has always caught public imagination. Art thieves have always been viewed with more sympathy than say, bank robbers. The planning which goes into the job, the daring of the participants needed to execute it and the thrill and suspense that accompanies it has always drawn unwilling admiration from the public.

In films, the art thief is shown as making money out of the sales of these art pieces, or as undertaking the job at the behest of a specific buyer. In reality though it is not so easy to dispose of a stolen art piece! For an art piece to have value, it must have authenticity, history and legal title. When a piece of art lacks any one of these three things, it will be very hard to find a buyer. So museum plunderers make for good thieves, but poor businessmen. Or to quote Robert Wittman ‘true art isn’t the stealing, it is the selling’. The more valuable and recognisable a painting is, the harder it will be to sell it in the illegal market. In fact, it makes sense for robbers to target smaller paintings which are generally covered by insurance and which government agencies generally do not investigate as they are not important enough.

The truly sad part of such heists is that the stolen pieces almost often never resurface. Unable to find a buyer, most art pieces are destroyed by the thieves to cover their tracks. Once a masterpiece is destroyed, it is gone forever because of which art heists cause a true and immeasurable loss to the art world.

Komal Chaurasia (have 84 posts in total)

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