Friday, May 21, 2010

Five Masterpieces Stolen From Paris Museum of Modern Art

At Washington Post, "In Paris, a $100 Million Heist":


In a brazen display of stealth, cunning and cool nerves, a thief using a sharp cutting tool opened a gated window and sneaked into the Paris Museum of Modern Art.

Three security guards were on duty at the time, but the thief -- or perhaps thieves -- detached five major cubist and post-impressionist paintings from their frames without being detected and slid back into the night with a rolled-up treasure worth well over $100 million.

The embarrassing heist -- of paintings by Pablo Picasso, Georges Braque, Henri Matisse, Amedeo Modigliani and Fernand Léger -- was discovered just before 7 a.m. Thursday, Paris officials said, probably long after the celebrated canvases had disappeared.

The operation was "a serious loss for the national patrimony" and one of the most damaging art thefts in recent years, said Christophe Girard, a city hall cultural attache.

"I am saddened and shocked by this theft, which is an intolerable attack on the universal cultural heritage of Paris," Mayor Bertrand Delanoe said in a statement. The museum was closed temporarily, he said, to allow police to investigate unhindered by art lovers.

Officers descended on the museum, in the tony 16th Arrondissement, just across the Seine from the Eiffel Tower, seeking to determine how anyone could have entered the museum without setting off an elaborate security system. Wearing rubber gloves and surgical masks, the officers powdered the gilded frames in an effort to gather fingerprints, and they examined the pried-open gate and the fractured glass window to see how it was isolated from the alarm system.

But the mystery remained, particularly concerning what the security guards were doing while the paintings were being stripped from their frames and hauled away. Responding to news reports, Delanoe said the alarm system had been malfunctioning since late March.
Smart theives with good taste --- now that's a thought!

Photos at the link.

SHOWN ABOVE: Pablo Picasso, The Pigeon with Green Peas (1911).