Dutch art heist worth 'at least €100m'
POLICE IN the Netherlands are investigating whether seven paintings by some of the best-known artists of the 19th and 20th centuries, including Picasso, Matisse, Gauguin and Monet, could have been stolen to order from a museum in Rotterdam yesterday morning.
The paintings – with an estimated total value of “at least €100 million”, according to art historian Jhim Lamoree – were taken when thieves broke into the Kunsthal Museum between 3am and 4am and selected the seven canvases from an exhibition of 150 works by famous artists.
All but one of the stolen paintings were from the private collection of the Triton Foundation, put together by the late Dutch businessman Willem Cordia and his wife, Marijke. This was the first time the entire collection had been shown together – to mark the 20th anniversary of the Kunsthal.
The works taken were Pablo Picasso’s Harlequin’s Head; Claude Monet’s Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; Henri Matisse’s Reading Girl in White and Yellow; Paul Gauguin’s Girl in Front of Open Window; Lucian Freud’s Woman with Eyes Closed; and Dutch artist Jacob Meijer de Haan’s Self Portrait (circa 1889). Other works in the exhibition, by Van Gogh, Cezanne, Dali, Rodin, Degas, Duchamp, Mondrian, Warhol and other highly collectable modern artists, were left untouched.
It remained unclear last night how the thieves got into the gallery, but the break-in was discovered when a security company alerted the police that an alarm had been activated.
“An initial investigation suggests that the robbery was very well prepared,” said a police spokesman. A forensic examination of the building was being carried out and video footage was being examined, he added.
Job Ubbens, director of Christie’s in Amsterdam, said it was possible the paintings had been stolen to order, in which case “they will end up on a wall somewhere and never be seen again”. Other possibilities, he said, were that an attempt would be made to ransom them, in which case contact would be made with the museum in the next few days – or that they had been stolen to sell, which would be very difficult if not impossible and “a very stupid act”.
Yesterday’s heist is one of the three biggest art thefts in the Netherlands in the past 25 years. In 1991, 20 paintings with an estimated value of €550 million were stolen from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam. They were subsequently found, three of them very badly damaged.