Showing posts with label Paul Gauguin. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Paul Gauguin. Show all posts

September 30, 2016

May 15, 1975 - Museum Theft, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan


On the evening of February 17, 1975, twenty-eight Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art were stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan.  In total works of art by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the 16th century Flemish master Adrien Van Utrecht, Francoise Millet, Giovanni Fatter, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Segatini were stolen.  The theft occurred despite the presence of watchmen on the premises, who were assigned to regularly patrol the museum and in theory who were required to make ten rounds of the exhibition spaces during each shift.  

To accomplish their crime criminals broke into the museum through an unalarmed first floor window.  They then mounted three flights of stairs and once in the upper Grassi Gallery proceeded to cut the artworks free of their frames, leaving them in a horrifying discarded heap. 

Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard)
also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven
stolen from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.
Stolen February 17, 1975 Recovered April 6, 1975
Stolen May 15, 1975 Recovered November 3, 1975
While no details of any arrests were announced in connection to the theft it is understood that the thieves may have demanded a hefty ransom and that this demand was most likely met. 

The works of art were conveniently recovered together on April 6, 1975, in an unoccupied sixth‐floor Milan apartment which had been registered to an alias. That apartment was later traced to Giuseppe Pennestri, an individual from Reggio Calabria living in Milan.   At the time the artworks were recovered, and given their good condition the artworks were valued by newspapers at USD $5 million.

While the Galleria d'Arte Moderna got its collection returned, by giving in and paying a thief's ransom, they encouraged further robberies.   Just three months later, on May 15, 1975, thieves struck the museum for a second time.

As if to add insult to injury, the second theft made use of the same security vulnerabilities.  Thieves entered the museum via the exact same avenue taken earlier, as if the first theft was a dress rehearsal for the second grand performance.

To break into the museum they came in over the high wall around the museum and then penetrated the building by climbing a ladder and entering through an upper floor window which had not been fitted with a burglar alarm. 

Once inside they reportedly overpowered four night watchmen.  Two were bound and gagged while making rounds and two were subsequently subdued in the Grassi Gallery where the criminals again made off with a substantial cache of paintings.

This time, even more Impressionist and Postimpressionist works of art were stolen, 38 in total. Many of the artworks stolen, including Van Gogh's watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard), were the same ones taken during the previous robbery.

Perhaps because the thieves were banking on a ransom having already been paid?

One month later, on June 17, 1975, police got a break.  During an routine traffic stop, Giuseppe Pennestri was arrested by Italian authorities while driving a Mercedes with New Zealand license plates under an assumed name.  With him was a Yugoslavian also travelling with false identity papers.

Pennestri would turn out to be a truly unsavoury character, with a record that included not only masterminding the theft of the museum, possibly on both occasions, but also a rap sheet that included homicide, drug dealing, facilitating prostitution and apparent ties to organized crime

Following a joint investigation involving Interpol and the Italian and West German authorities 26 of the 38 artworks stolen were recovered on November 2, 1975. 

Italian law enforcement officials arrested one suspect in Foligno while their counterparts in Germany arrested three individuals in Duisburg, what was then West Germany.  Fifteen of the paintings were found in Italy during a raid on an apartment owned by a wealthy businessman, Settimio Bianchi. Eleven other artworks, including the works by Van Gogh and Renoir, were recovered in West Germany along with nine other stolen artworks from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.

By Lynda Albertson

February 17, 1975 - Museum Theft, Galleria d'Arte Moderna, Milan


On the evening of February 17, 1975, twenty-eight Impressionist and Post-Impressionist works of art were stolen from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna in Milan.  In total works of art by Vincent Van Gogh, Paul Gauguin, Paul Cezanne, Auguste Renoir, Amedeo Modigliani, Jean-Baptiste-Camille Corot, the 16th century Flemish master Adrien Van Utrecht, Francoise Millet, Giovanni Fatter, Telemaco Signorini, and Giovanni Segatini were stolen.  The theft occurred despite the presence of watchmen on the premises, who were assigned to regularly patrol the museum and in theory who were required to make ten rounds of the exhibition spaces during each shift.  

To accomplish their crime criminals broke into the museum through an unalarmed first floor window.  They then mounted three flights of stairs and once in the upper Grassi Gallery proceeded to cut the artworks free of their frames, leaving them in a horrifying discarded heap. 

Van Gogh watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard)
also known as Les bretonnes et le pardon de pont Aven
stolen from the Galleria d’Arte Moderna.
Stolen February 17, 1975 Recovered April 6, 1975
Stolen May 15, 1975 Recovered November 3, 1975
While no details of any arrests were announced in connection to the theft it is understood that the thieves may have demanded a hefty ransom and that this demand was most likely met. 

The works of art were conveniently recovered together on April 6, 1975, in an unoccupied sixth‐floor Milan apartment which had been registered to an alias. That apartment was later traced to Giuseppe Pennestri, an individual from Reggio Calabria living in Milan.   At the time the artworks were recovered, and given their good condition the artworks were valued by newspapers at USD $5 million.

While the Galleria d'Arte Moderna got its collection returned, by giving in and paying a thief's ransom, they encouraged further robberies.   Just three months later, on May 15, 1975, thieves struck the museum for a second time.

As if to add insult to injury, the second theft made use of the same security vulnerabilities.  Thieves entered the museum via the exact same avenue taken earlier, as if the first theft was a dress rehearsal for the second grand performance.

To break into the museum they came in over the high wall around the museum and then penetrated the building by climbing a ladder and entering through an upper floor window which had not been fitted with a burglar alarm. 

Once inside they reportedly overpowered four night watchmen.  Two were bound and gagged while making rounds and two were subsequently subdued in the Grassi Gallery where the criminals again made off with a substantial cache of paintings.

This time, even more Impressionist and Postimpressionist works of art were stolen, 38 in total. Many of the artworks stolen, including Van Gogh's watercolour Breton Women (after Emile Bernard), were the same ones taken during the previous robbery.

Perhaps because the thieves were banking on a ransom having already been paid?

One month later, on June 17, 1975, police got a break.  During an routine traffic stop, Giuseppe Pennestri was arrested by Italian authorities while driving a Mercedes with New Zealand license plates under an assumed name.  With him was a Yugoslavian also travelling with false identity papers.

Pennestri would turn out to be a truly unsavoury character, with a record that included not only masterminding the theft of the museum, possibly on both occasions, but also a rap sheet that included homicide, drug dealing, facilitating prostitution and apparent ties to organized crime

Following a joint investigation involving Interpol and the Italian and West German authorities 26 of the 38 artworks stolen were recovered on November 2, 1975. 

Italian law enforcement officials arrested one suspect in Foligno while their counterparts in Germany arrested three individuals in Duisburg, what was then West Germany.  Fifteen of the paintings were found in Italy during a raid on an apartment owned by a wealthy businessman, Settimio Bianchi. Eleven other artworks, including the works by Van Gogh and Renoir, were recovered in West Germany along with nine other stolen artworks from the Galleria d'Arte Moderna.

By Lynda Albertson

January 30, 2015

Breaking News: Will the Real Owners of the Stolen Paul Gauguin Painting Please Stand Up? A Case for Mediation.

In April 2014 the stolen art world ignited when a press conference conducted by General Mariano Mossa of Italy’s Comando Carabinieri Tutela Patrimonio Culturale art crime squad and the country’s Minister of Culture and Tourism, Dario Franceschini, announced that Italy had recovered two stolen paintings worth more than 33 million euros.

Originally owned by philanthropist Mathilda Marks, daughter of Michael Marks, who founded the Marks and Spencer retail empire and her husband, Terence Kennedy, the two paintings, Fruits sur une table ou nature au petit chien (Still Life with a Small Dog) by Paul Gauguin and Pierre Bonnard’s La femme aux deux fauteuils (Woman with Two Armchairs) had been stolen from a opulent London flat in Chester Terrace in 1970.  The art thieves, posing as burglar alarm repairmen, gained access to the house on the pretext of verifying the owner’s alarm system.  Pretending to go about their work, the criminals quickly removed the artworks from their original frames and bolted while the housekeeper was distracted preparing tea.

After their theft, the art works were smuggled out of England and on to France where they were later abandoned on a Turin-bound train arriving from Paris.  The culprits were never identified though police speculate that whoever was transporting the paintings may have abandoned them when they were spooked by customs officials on the train.

Found by railway inspectors, the two paintings languished for more than a year in the Turin train system’s lost property section before being auctioned off by Italy's national railway network in 1975 as unrecovered lost property.  This time period is significant because the sale occurred five years before the Carabinieri's famous art crime tracking database came into existence.  Unaware of their importance, the pictures were sold for a mere 45,000 lire – €26 in today's money, to a Fiat employee identified only as Nicolò, who later moved back to Siracusa, Sicily when he retired from the auto industry job as a metal mechanic in Turin. 

The Antiques Trade Gazette, reported that Rome’s public prosecutor Marcello Cascini, has stated that the Carabinieri TPC had been alerted to the paintings when a friend of the Italian buyer tried to sell them.  Other news services have reported that the autoworker’s son, Salvatore voluntarily contacted the Carabineri TPC directly when he began to suspect that his father’s paintings where not merely bargain basement knock-off’s.  In either case, the family members have been cooperative and have avoided the lime-light while the paintings were sequestered in 2014 until rightful ownership could be established.

Who is entitled to proceed for restitution and is possession really 9/10ths of the law?

Despite EU efforts to reach uniformity, each domestic law system in the EC provides specific regulations that may vary between Common Law and Civil Code approaches in determining who the rightful owner of a stolen object is. 

Following Art.1153 of the Italian Code, "Effects of the acquisition of possession”, in order to resist a forfeiture claim and protect his interests, the bona fides Sicilian buyer first would have to establish that he acquired the artworks and currently holds the items under dispute.  Second he would need to prove that he had a "valid" title upon which the goods have been acquired and third he would need to show that he was acting on good faith when he purchased the paintings.

Based on Italian civil code criteria the paintings would have had to have been owned by the Fiat worker for 10 years if he was unaware they were stolen goods or twenty years if he had any knowledge that the artworks he had purchased were hot art.

On the basis of the civil code in Italy,  information provided by the Carabinieri TPC that specializes in art and antiquities and given more than forty years had passed since the time of the London theft and subsequent purchase, the Italian courts ruled in the autoworker’s favor last month.  The property was returned to its Italian owner who reported that he planned to sell the Gauguin.

His victory proves there is some truth to the old adage, ownership is easier to maintain if one has possession of something and difficult to enforce if one does not.

Italian law. UK law. Swiss Law. 

But while Mrs. Marks and her American husband, Terence Kennedy, had no children they did have heirs to their vast fortune.

Terence Frank Kennedy met Mathilda Marks in Paris and were married shortly thereafter on 23 August 1951.  A flashy couple, they travelled frequently and spent their money on jewellery, cars, dogs and art. They would buy the Guaguin painting in 1962 from Sotheby’s in New York.

Speaking with Richard Ellis, director of the Art Management Group and a former head of Scotland Yard's Art and Antiques Squad, ARCA learned that when Mathilda Marks died 01 September 1964 she left her widower as the principal beneficiary to her personal estate, leaving him the pictures, which remained in his Chester Terrace home in Regents Park until the high profile art theft in June 1970.

Later he would close the house and travel between Switzerland, London and the South of France where he met John Henderson, then a young actor, who would go on to serve as his personal assistant after he suffered from a major stroke.  Henderson would become Kennedy's lifelong friend, support person  and constant companion for the next twenty years.

When Mr. Kennedy died in 1997 he made Mr. Henderson his sole heir under a will administered in Switzerland. In addition to a will, Mr. Henderson can produce the complete provenance of the paintings and their original frames, complete with exhibition history.

According to Ellis, the terms of Kennedy’s will means that all of Mr Kennedy's possessions, whether in his keeping at the time or not, now belong to John Henderson, inclusive of the now contested stolen pictures and the paintings' frames which he still has. The fact that investigations revealed no insurance payout having been made on the pictures, means that at least under UK law, Mr. Henderson retains clear title to the art works.

Where do the “owners” go from here?

Mr. Ellis reported that he is attempting to schedule a meeting with Roberto Matarazzo, Italian legal counsel to the 70-year-old retired Fiat factory worker arguing that this evidence seems to dictate that the Carabineri TPC and Italian Courts may not have satisfactorily investigated the claim to ownership with regards to these valuable artworks prior to their ruling in the retiree’s favor.  Ellis would like to set up an appointment to discuss the matter in Naples as soon as possible but definitely before any potentially, controversial sale.

This may be a perfect opportunity for all parties to consider the advantages of extra-judicial methods of dispute resolution through the use of a mediator. By sitting down to talk and finding an agreement via mediation on this matter, both parties may be able to arrive at a satisfactory resolution for all parties via Directive 2008/52/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 21 May 2008.  This directive is specifically intended to encourage amicable dispute resolution vs. long litigious drawn out battles, particularly in civil and commercial matters.

Its the appropriate recourse for art and cultural heritage dispute in the event of an art theft where both the heirs and the purchasing party have vested interests, financial or emotional, in the artworks.

By Lynda Albertson, ARCA

References used in this article:

http://www.antiquestradegazette.com/news/2015/jan/28/british-heir-challenges-italian-factory-worker%E2%80%99s-claim-over-stolen-%C2%A325m-gauguin/
http://www.boglione.eu/it/chi-siamo/focus/item/216-re-getting-back-stolen-valuable-goods-the-eu-perspective.html

http://europa.eu/legislation_summaries/justice_freedom_security/judicial_cooperation_in_civil_matters/l33251_en.htm

Italian Studies in Law: A Review of Legal Problems, edited by Alessandro Pizzorusso

http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/03/arts/design/two-stolen-paintings-are-found-in-italy.html?_r=0

http://www.panorama.it/cultura/gauguin-bonnard-capolavori/

http://www.thepeerage.com/p36836.htm

October 22, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Three defendants plead guilty. Radu Dogaru criticizes museum's security

Radu Dogaru, Alexandru Bitu and Eugen Darie, pled guilty today in a Bucharest courtroom for their part in the October 16, 2012 theft of seven paintings (Monet's Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London, Picasso's Tete d'Arlequin, Gauguin's Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, Matisse's La Liseuse en Blanc et Jaune, De Haan's Autoportrait, and Lucian Freud's Woman with Eyes Closed) belonging to the Triton Foundation and on display at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.

In his deposition to prosecutors, primary suspect Radu Dogaru contradicted his mother's earlier confession to burning the paintings telling the court that his mother made these statements under pressure from long interrogation by the Romanian police.

Criticisms of security

Dogaru went on to add disparaging comments about the perceived level of security at the Rotterdam museum saying "At first I thought the paintings were fake, because it was so easy to get inside."   He went on to contrast the security at the Kunsthal with that of the Louvre adding "where they have real security".  In pleading guilty Dogaru told the court he gained entry to the museum by opening the door with a screwdriver, adding he could even have entered without any tools. 

In an even more brassy twist of events, Dogaru's attorney, Cătălin Dancu, stated that they are considering hiring Dutch lawyers to introduce an action in court citing negligent security at the Kunsthal as the mitigating circumstance that led to her client's role in the late night thefts.   In addition to blaming the gallery for her client's sticky fingers, Dancu spoke with reporters during a break from the court proceedings and stated that Dogaru had inside help in the heist.  

When asked by the judge whether he had inside help, Dogaru refused to reveal the alleged unnamed accomplice's identity.

Sources:
http://www.reporterntv.ro/flux/radu-dogaru-eugen-darie-si-alexandru-bitu-au-recunoscut-faptele-de-care-sunt-acuzati-in-dosarul-furtului-de-tablouri

http://nos.nl/artikel/565440-verdachten-kunstroof-dagen-rdam.html

March 24, 2013

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Heist: Looking at the Paintings Stolen from the Triton Foundation (Provenance Information Added)

Lucian Freud, Woman with Eyes Closed
by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor

The seven paintings stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam on October 16 remain missing. On January 21, Romanian police arrested three men in connection with the gallery heist. March 4, Dutch police arrested a Romanian woman believed to be an accomplice. On March 13, a German man who arrested for blackmail after an alleged attempt to sell the Triton stolen paintings back to the foundation. The mother of one of the defendants arrested for the theft has claimed that she destroyed two of the paintings.

Last December Yale University published Avant-Gardes 1870 to the Present: The Collection of the Triton Foundation which offers more information on the stolen paintings stolen from the Triton Foundation. This catalogue is written by Sjraar van Heugten, former head of collections at the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, and an independent art historian. Here the catalogue's information on the stolen paintings:

Lucian Freud: Woman with Eyes Closed (2002), oil on canvas, 30.5 x 25.4 cm. Provenance: Triton Foundation, acquired from the artists, 2002.


Paul Gauguin, La Fiancée 
Paul Gauguin, Woman Before a Window, 'The Fiancée, 1888, an oil on canvas. annotated in the lower right in red paint (damaged) La Fiancée; signed and dated lower right beneath annotation in black paint P Go 88, 33.8 x 41 cm. Provenance: Private collection, England; Kunsthandel (art dealer) Franz Buffa, Amsterdam; collection Allan and Nancy Miller, Solebury, Pennsylvania, 1949; auction Galerie Charpentier, Paris, 17 June 1960, no. 87 (unsold); auction Sotheby's, London, 4 July 1962, no. 75 (unsold); auction Christie's, Tokyo, 27 May 1969, no. 302; collection Samuel Josefowitz, Lausanne, circa 1981; auction Drouot-Montaigne, Paris, 3 April 1990, no. 58; Triton Foundation, 1997.


Matisse's Reading Woman
Matisse's Reading Woman in White and Yellow, 1919 was painted in the South of France in the suburb of Cimiez. The 31 x 33 cm work is "oil on canvas mounted on board" and "signed lower left Henri Matisse". Comment: Certificate of authenticity by Wanda de Guébriant, 12 Mar. 1996. Provenance: Galerie Bernheim-Jeune, Paris, acquired from the artists on 23 June 1919, no. 21624; Bernheim-Jeune Frères, acquired on 20 May 1931; collection Josse and Gaston Bernheim-Jeune, 1931; Bignou Gallery, New York; private collection, New York, 1947; collection Dr. Peter Nathan, Zurich, 1953; collection Emil G. Bührle, Zurich, acquired from the above on 8 December 1953; Foundation Emil G. Bührle Collection, since 1960; Triton Foundation, 1999.

Jacob Meyer De Haan, Self-Portrait

Jacob Meyer De Haan (Amsterdam 1852 - Amsterdam 1895), Self-Portrait against Japonist Background, circa 1889-1891, oil on canvas, 32.4 x 24.5 cm. Provenance: Collection Marie Henry, Le Pouldu; collection Ida Cochennec, daughter of the artists and Marie Henry; auction Cochennec Collection, Hôtel Drouot, Paris, 24 June 1959, no. 77; Marlborough Fine Art Ltd, London; collection Mr. and Mrs Arthur G. Altschul, New York, acquired in July 1961; Triton Foundation, 2002 (on long-term loan to the Van Gogh Museum, Amsterdam, 2002-2004).

Sideways view of Monet's Waterloo Bridge
Claude Monet: Waterloo Bridge, London (1901), pastel on brown laid paper, signed lower right Claude Monet, 30.5 x 48.0 cm. Provenance: Collection Werner Herold, Switzerland, circa 1917; private collection, USA, 1970; Triton Foundation, 1998.

Another sideway's view: Monet's
Charing Cross Bridge, London
Claude Monet's Charing Cross Bridge, London, 1901, pastel on brown gray laid paper, annotated and signed lower right à J. Massé/au jeune chasseur/d'Afrique Claude Monet, 31.0 x 48.5 cm. Provenance: Collection J. Massè, gift from the artist; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 24 Nov. 1985, no. 39; auction Hôtel des Ventes, Enghien-Les-Bains, 18 Mar. 1989, no. 6; private collection, Triton Foundation, 1998.

Picasso's Head of a Harlequin
Painted the year before the artist's death, Picasso's Head of a Harlequin (1971) is in "pen and brush in black ink, colored pencil and pastel on thick brown wove paper" (38 x 29 cm) and is "signed and dated in the lower right Picasso/12.1./71. Provenance: Galerie Louise Leiris, Paris; private collection, Europe; Michelle Rosenfeld Gallery, New York; private collection, USA; Finartis Kunsthandels AG, Zug; private collection, USA, 2004; Triton Foundation, 2009.

October 31, 2012

Kunsthal Rotterdam Art Theft: Journalist Colin Gleadell on "overvaluation" of the seven stolen paintings

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog

So much has been written about the October 16 theft of seven paintings from the Triton Foundation on display at the Kunsthal Rotterdam that it takes a long time to sift through so much of the published material to find original information on the internet.  However, Colin Gleadell writing for Britain's Telegraph grabbed my attention with the headline "Stone Dutch works wildly overvalued".

Last week ARCA's CEO Lynda Albertson wrote about the Triton Foundation here on this blog, finding that the collection assembled in the last two decades had been infrequently exhibited, had no website and had its first big show of 150 of the works this month at the Kunsthal Rotterdam ("Avant-Gardes").

This December, Yale University Press is publishing "Avant-Gardes, 1870-1970, The Triton Collection" ($125, cloth) , a 568-page book by Sjraar van Heugten, an independent art historian and a former Head of Collections at the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam (about 60 kilometers north of Rotterdam).  The Triton Foundation's collection contains approximately 250 paintings, drawings, and sculptures from more than 170 Western artists dating from 1870 to 1970  including George Braques, Paul Cézanne, Edgar Degas, Willem de Kooning, Lucien Freud, Roy Lichtenstein, Édouard Manet, Henri Matisse, Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh and Andy Warhol ("Avante-Gardes").

The statement attributed to the director of the Kunsthal Rotterdam Emily Ansenk posted on the art gallery's website identifies the stolen paintings adding that the investigation will be handled by the police.  As to the seven stolen paintings, Ansenk states: "Perhaps we should add that all stolen works have been internationally registered and described and are therefore unsaleable.  We are not prepared to comment on the value of the works."

Historically, published accounts of art thefts have attached a value to the paintings which thieves have used as a basis for a ransom demand.

However, Gleadell, who has written extensively on the art market, assesses the value of the seven stolen paintings between "£12.5 million and £16 million" based on experts familiar with the collection who wished to remain anonymous:  
Some pictures that were thought to be oil paintings were in fact much less valuable pastels or drawings on paper, and none of the stolen pictures measured more than 13in by 16in – handy enough for the thieves to tuck under their arms. Monet’s oil paintings of the Thames, made when he stayed at the Savoy Hotel in 1901, have fetched as much as £18 million at auction. But the two stolen Monets were small pastels the likes of which have never sold for more than £250,000 at auction.
The Picasso, a late work, was also a small coloured drawing on paper, not an oil painting.
Picasso’s large, late oil paintings have made £10 million at auction, hence a guesstimate by Forbes of £9.7 million. But late drawings of this size have never sold for over a million pounds, though the quality of this one may lift it to seven figures.
The International Herald Tribune came up with a punchy $130 million figure for the Picasso and Matisse alone, and while the Matisse was indeed an oil painting – larger, more sumptuous interiors of seated or reclining women have made £10 million or more – the small scale of this work and less seductive pose of the sitter led our experts to place a value of between £3 million and £4 million on it. 
Similarly, the Gauguin is an early painting from 1888, so is of historical interest, but would not command anything like the sums generated by his sought-after Tahitian pictures. Our experts granted it a £3 million to £4 million estimate. 
The self-portrait by the lesser-known Dutch painter Jacob Meyer de Haan is more difficult because so few of his works have been sold at auction and none for more than £600,000. A friend of Gauguin’s, he painted this when the two were in Brittany in the late 1880s. And while it is stylistically related to the Frenchman’s work of the time, it is a small masterpiece by de Haan; thus a figure of £2 million has been suggested. 
The only contemporary work to be stolen was a portrait of the young journalist Emily Bearn by Lucian Freud, painted in 2002. Although Freud’s late work tends to be less sought after, this is a remarkably tender portrait and has been included in several museum exhibitions. Our experts estimate that it should be worth about £3 million. 

October 17, 2012

Rotterdam Art Heist: What is the Triton Foundation?

Book cover for a volume Yale Press
 is publishing this December
by Lynda Albertson, ARCA CEO

The Triton Collection was built over twenty years by Rotterdam oil and shipping magnate Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The collection includes approximately 250 paintings, drawings and pieces of sculpture.  The core of the collection consists of Western art dating from 1870 to 1970 and is reputed to be one of the 200 most important private collections in the world.

An entrepreneur and investor, Willem Cordia served as an officer with the Holland-America Line and later became a strategic investment developer and port magnate in Rotterdam.  His wife’s family was well known in the Dutch shipping world, making their fortune in the worldwide transport of dry bulk cargo like ore, coal and grain.  At the time of his death, Cordia's wealth was estimated at  € 330 million.

The Triton Collection was bequeathed to the Dutch Foundation Triton at the time of Cordia’s death.  Starting with the goal of making the collection and new acquisitions more accessible to the general public, the foundation’s overseers have loaned works from the collection to museums and temporary exhibitions.  Artworks from the collection have been loaned to international art museums such as the Thyssen-Bornemisza Museum in Madrid, the Seoul Museum of Art and locally within the Netherlands to the Van Gogh Museum as well as the Hague Municipal Museum.

The Triton Collection focuses on innovators in modern art and includes artworks by Bonnard, Braque, Cézanne, De Kooning, Dufy, Fontana, Freud, Giacometti, Kelly, Klein, Manzoni, Modigliani, Mondrian, Monet, Picabia, Picasso, Stella, Uecker, Van Dongen, Van Gogh, and Vuillard.

From 2006 to 2011, Peter van Beveren served as curator of the Triton Foundation.  The Collection is now curated by Marlies Cordia-Roeloffs, daughter of Willem Cordia and his wife Marijke van der Laan.  The exhibit on loan to the Kunsthal Rotterdam from 7 October 2012 to 20 January 2013 included more than 150 artworks selected from over 100 different artists from the vanguard, the avant-garde of western art history.  Many of the works were on display for the first time publicly.

Between the evening of the 15th and the morning of the 16th of October 2012, the following seven paintings were stolen from the exhibition:

•           Pablo Picasso : Tête d'Arlequin (1971)
•           Henri Matisse : La Liseuse and Blanc et Jaune (1919)
•           Claude Monet : Waterloo Bridge, London (1901)
•           Claude Monet: Charing Cross Bridge, London (1901)
•           Paul Gauguin : Femme devant une fenêtre ouverte, dite la Fiancée (1888)
•           Meijer de Haan : Autoportrait (circa 1889-1891)
•           Lucian Freud : Woman with Eyes Closed (2002)

Rotterdam Art Heist: The Day After

by Catherine Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Questions remain the day after seven stolen paintings estimated to be worth "tens of millions" remain missing from the Kunsthal art gallery when yesterday morning the 20-year-old building's "state of the art" security system alerted private security, then the Rotterdam police, that the contemporary art space had been robbed.  A Picasso, two Monets, a Gauguin, a Matissee -- five of the paintings were attributed to artists favored by thieves for their fame and perceived value -- plus another by Lucien Freud (famous contemporary artist) and Meijer de Haan (1852-1895), whose name may not be as recognizable but the Dutch artist's paintings are in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris and the Norton Simon Museum in Pasadena (Meyer de Haan painted with Gauguin in Brittany).

Here are links to CBS News (video and text) on the heist and speculation as to whether or not it was an inside job because, as discussed by Chris Marinello of The Art Loss Register, the theft "just went too smoothly".   In the later segment, CBS News correspondent John Miller, a former FBI deputy director, describes art thieves not as sophisticated urbanites (see Pierce Brosnan in The Thomas Crown Affair) but "knuckleheads" who put a lot of time into taking the paintings but will either seek assistance in selling the paintings that usually involves undercover agents, or will try to ransom the paintings back to the insurance company, or will keep the paintings for years as a 'get out of jail card'.

The question after an art heist is more overwhelmingly not who took the paintings but when or if they will ever be recovered.  Listing the stolen paintings into the database of The Art Loss Register, with the media, and other law enforcement agencies is meant to stop the sale of the works through legitimate art dealers and auction houses.

In Kate Connolly's piece yesterday in The Guardian ("Rotterdam art thieves take valuable paintings in dawn heist"), "security experts speculated that the thieves might have taken advantage of Rotterdam's port -- one of the largest in the world -- to swiftly move the paintings abroad" and that the paintings could have been "stolen to order" or held for ransom.

According to the Associated Press (published online here with the Winnipeg Free Press), Dutch police are following up on "15 tips from the public", "studying video surveillance images", and have "focused their attention on a rear door that thieves most likely used to get into the gallery before snatching the paintings."

Here DutchNews.nl reports that the Kunsthal reopened Wednesday and replaced the spaces formerly occupied by the stolen paintings with works from the Triton Foundation (and notes that journalists outnumbered visitors inside the museum).