May 21, 2010

Reactions to the Paris Theft

A lot of reactions to the theft of five modern works in Paris yesterday.

Dick Ellis:

The operation was "very carefully planned".

Noah Charney interviewed in TIME:

The theft has all the markings of organized crime which, since the 1960s, has been responsible for most art crime worldwide . . .  There is no market for such works, and they are most likely to either be ransomed, or to be used for trade or collateral on a closed black market, traded for other illicit goods such as drugs or arms between criminal groups. . . .  Because of the involvement of organized crime groups, art theft fuels other crime types, from the drug and arms trades to terrorism.

Tom Flynn:

The media's blithe dismissal of art theft as a trifling peccadillo might be seen as another version of the museum world's careless attitude to the cultural objects in its care. The Paris theft has all the marks of an inside job (anyone who keeps a weather eye on international art crime will testify to how frequently this is the case in major art thefts). Meanwhile, closed circuit television cameras may have recorded an action-packed video of the heist, but what good it will do beyond make for some Thomas Crown-like entertainment is a moot point. CCTV is as much use as an ashtray on a motorbike.

Ton Cremers on the Museum Security Network:

In the abundance of information and non-information after the Paris theft of 5 important 20th century paintings the revelation that the electronic intruder alarm system was out of order since two months is shocking. If this really is true - it seems almost impossible - one may wonder if any museum director would accept that the climate system would be out of order. No need to answer this question. This makes me think of the poor security in the Kunsthistorisches Museum in Vienna where the Benvenuto Cellini saliera was stolen within 56 seconds. My conviction in those days: fire that director immediately. If it appears true that the security system in this Paris museum was out of order since two months - or two days for that matter - my advise is exactly the same: fire the complete responsible management.
Catherine Sezgin summarizes what we know now at the ARCA blog:
For six weeks, the Musée d’Art Modern de la Ville de Paris has waited for parts to fix their security system. Last night, five paintings valued at 100 million euros were stolen between Wednesday evening and Thursday morning from the building in one of the most fashionable districts in Paris, just blocks from the Pont de l’Alma where Princess Diana died in 1997 and north of the Eiffel Tour.

The thief accessed the collection though a rear window of the east wing of the Palais de Tokyo. It is possible that the thief drove his scooter along the Avenue du New York that runs parallel to the Seine. He likely rode a scooter because the street has signs posted for no parking and heavy black gates divide the road from the wide sidewalk as is common in central Paris.

  1. Hunt for Paris art theft clues, BBC, May 20, 2010, http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/europe/8695453.stm (last visited May 21, 2010).
  2. Jeffrey T. Iverson, The French Art Heist: Who Would Steal Unsaleable Picassos?, Time, 2010, http://www.time.com/time/arts/article/0,8599,1990921,00.html (last visited May 21, 2010).
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