Arts & Culture
10 Famous Art Heist Cities
We love heist films. The Thomas Crown Affair (1999 version), The Killing, Inside Man and so on. Heists happen in real life too, however, and sometimes have actual Hollywood endings (depending on who you’re rooting for, of course) and more twists than an alpine pass. Here are ten cities whose museums have been the site of extraordinary art heists.
State Theatre and National Gallery of Victoria – Photo credit
A group of self-described “cultural terrorists” covertly snatched Pablo Picasso’s The Weeping Woman from the National Gallery of Victoria in 1986 and demanded more funding for the arts as ransom. The thieves gave up the ruse a week later and left the painting in a railway locker. The heist later became the subject of a film. Interestingly, Picasso’s best “Weeping Woman” – the painting was one in a series – hangs in London’s Tate Gallery.
Where to stay: Art Series The Blackman Hotel Melbourne
Oslo has been hit twice by thieving Edvard Munch fans. Munch’s master oeuvre, The Scream, was pinched from the National Gallery in 1994 and recovered, only to be subsequently stolen from the Munch Museum a decade later. Norwegian authorities finally tracked the iconic painting down in 2006.
Where to stay: Clarion Collection Hotel Folketeateret Oslo
Paris is a mecca of sorts for art forgers and museum burglars and, unsurprisingly, the French capital has seen some pretty daring and audacious heists. One of the most spectacular took place in 2010, when the Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris was taken for an estimated $123 million USD when works by Picasso, Henri Matisse, Georges Braque, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger were lifted in an overnight job. The crime is still under investigation.
Where to stay: La Maison Favart Hotel Paris
If the theft in Paris proves not to be the “heist of the century”, it will likely be because of one that took place in Zurich a couple of years before. On February 10, 2008, thieves made off with four paintings by Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Claude Monet and Vincent van Gogh worth some $162.5 million USD from the Foundation E.G. Bührle Collection. Only the Degas is still at large.
Where to stay: The Dolder Grand Hotel Zurich
The São Paulo Museum of Art was the victim of a heist in December 2007 when criminals managed to loot a Picasso and Cândido Portinari at 5 a.m. in a speedy three minutes flat. The paintings were later returned with significant damage.
Where to stay: L’Hotel Porto Bay Sao Paulo
The millennium ended on a sour note for the Nationalmuseum of Sweden when a Rembrandt and two Pierre-Auguste Renoirs were purloined by three armed thieves on December 22, 2000. It took more than five years to recover the masterpieces.
Where to stay: Rival Hotel Stockholm
Germany’s financial capital is not immune to white collar crime, fraud and embezzlement but a case of art thievery in 1994 stands out. The crime took place in the Kunsthalle Schirn. Thieves hid in the museum until after hours, subdued a security guard and made off with two J. M. W. Turners and a Caspar David Friedrich on loan from the Tate Gallery in London. The Tate collected on the insurance to the tune of 20 million euros and later bought the paintings – from the thieves presumably – for a tidy 2 million euros.
Where to stay: Hessischer Hof Hotel Frankfurt
Even UNESCO World Heritage Sites get hit because of lax security. In 1976 a remarkable 118 paintings, drawings and other works by Picasso were pinched from a special exhibition at the Palais des Papes in Avignon.
Where to stay: Novotel Avignon Centre
As the pre-eminent repository of one of the most profitable artists in history, the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam runs an incredibly tight ship. That didn’t stop two thieves from plundering two works in 2002 worth an estimated $30 million USD. The paintings have never been recovered but the criminals were caught and convicted.
Where to stay: Grand Hotel Amrath Amsterdam
Rio de Janeiro
Rio had its very own infamous art heist in 2006 when a Salvador Dalí, Picasso, Matisse and Monet were stolen from the Museu da Chácara do Céu in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Cunningly, the theft took place in late February, during a Carnaval parade. The paintings are still missing.
Where to stay: Porto Bay Rio Internacional Rio de Janeiro