Rotterdam museum hit by early morning art heist
The 20th birthday celebrations of the Kunsthal museum in Rotterdam have been ruined, after thieves broke into the premises and made away with several works of art worth tens of millions of pounds.
Paintings by the likes of Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin and Claude Monet were taken in the early hours of Tuesday (October 16th) in what is seen as a very sophisticated operation.
Initial reports indicate the criminals knew what they were after, with unnerving picture hooks sitting awkwardly next to other works of art. The question why these were left is an intriguing one.
The paintings that were stolen included Picasso’s Tete d’Arlequin (1971), Matisse’s La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune (1919), Gauguin’s Femme Devant Une Fenêtre Ouverte, Dite La Fiancée (1898) and Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London (1901).
They came from the internationally respected Triton Foundation Collection, which is the legacy of Willem Cordia, the wealthy Dutch entrepreneur who only passed away last year.
Each painting was being shown publicly for the first time as part of an exhibition entitled Avant-Gardes at the museum, which celebrates the preeminence of artists from “vanguard, avant-garde and Western art movements”. It was set to run until January 20th 2013.
“What happened is a nightmare for any museum director,” Emily Anserk, director of the Kunsthal, told reporters at a press conference. “This deed has hit the art world like a bomb.”
While Ms Anserk went on to describe the museum’s security as being state of the art and functional, security expert Tom Cremers told Dutch daily newspaper De Volkskrant that the design of Kunsthal itself made it an easy target.
“As a gallery it is a gem,” he said. “But it is an awful building to have to protect. If you hold your face up to the window at the back you have a good view of the paintings, which makes it all too easy for thieves to plot taking them from the walls.”
As to whether they can be recovered, the jury is out. The reasons given for their theft could be purely financial, resulting in a ransom demand; it could have been an assignment for some rich and powerful figure to enjoy for aesthetics; or as a way of generating capital to pay back a loan.
Some experts argue that because they are such recognisable works, easily identified as such by notable figures in the art world, they’re not likely to be sold on the open market. In this instance, these works will become part of the tragic cluster of lost art.
Cadogan Tate works with museums, galleries and artists to deliver secure art storage solutions.