Many art thieves are usually motivated by the valuable art pieces which weigh only a few kilograms at most, resale or ransom can worth millions of dollars. Transport for items such as paintings is also petty, assuming the thief is willing to inflict some damage to the painting by cutting it off the frame and rolling it up into a tube carrier.
1. The Museum of Modern Art in Paris, May 2010
A lone thief broke into a Paris museum on 19 May 2010 and stole five paintings including masterpieces by Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, French police said today.The paintings are estimated to be worth just under 100m euros (£86m; $123m).Security camera footage reportedly shows someone entering the museum through a window during the night. None of these artworks has yet been recovered.
2. Pinacoteca do Estado de São Paulo, June 2008
In the second of two thefts of artwork in São Paulo within six months, three armed men used a crowbar and jack at 5am on the 12th of June 2008 to break into the Pinacoteca do Estado Museum. Two Picasso masterpieces were stolen – The Painter and the Model (1963), and Minotaur, Drinker and Women (1933), as well as Di Cavalcanti’s Women at the Window (1926) and Segall’s Couple (1919). The four masterpieces have an estimated worth of £388,000 with only one being recovered – Picasso’s The Painter and the Model.
3. Emile Bührle Foundation Theft in Switzerland, February 2008
Forget the elaborate heists you see in movies; all it took to steal four masterworks from a private Zurich museum in 2008 was three guys and some ski masks, one brandishing a pistol in broad daylight and driving off with $163m worth of impressionist paintings sticking out of the boot of their car. Two of the paintings – Monet’s “Poppies near Vetheuil” and van Gogh’s “Blossoming Chestnut Branches” – were later found in an unlocked parked car.
4. Sao Paulo Museum of Art Robbery, December 2007
In just three minutes, three robbers raided Brazil’s Sao Paolo Museum of Art and walked out with $56 million worth of art. Taking advantage of low security on the upper floors of the museum, the criminals snatched up Pablo Picasso’s Portrait de Suzanne Bloch (1904, worth $50 million, pictured) and Candido Portinari’s O Lavrador De Cafe (1939, worth $6 million). Police found the paintings after arresting two of the culprits. The art works were escorted back to the museum by 100 police officers.
5. Munch Museum in Norway Theft, August 2004
In August 22, 2004, two masked and armed men barged into the Munch Museum and threatened its workers at a daring daylight theft. The thieves got away with a pair of Munch’s famous paintings, The Scream and The Madonna. The ballpark figure of both paintings was a 100 million Euros, combined. In May 2006, authorities arrested and sentenced three men.Both paintings were recovered in relatively good condition in Norway in 2006.
6. Drumlanrig Castle in Scotland, August 2003
A good disguise always works, apparently even for criminals. Take the crooks who stole the Madonna of the Yarnwinder by Leonardo Da Vinci in broad daylight at about 11am on Wednesday 27th August 2003. The two crooks entered the Scotland’s Drumlanrig Castle with a group of tourists, overpowered a guard, and took off with the famous painting. Since alarms around the art do not set off during the day, the thieves managed to convince the other tourists from intervening, telling them: “Don’t worry… we’re the police. This is just practice.” Although the thieves were never caught the painting was recovered in 2007.
7. Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester Theft, April 2003
In 2003 thieves took works by Gauguin, Picasso, and van Gogh from the Whitworth Art Gallery in Manchester, England. The paintings were soon discovered in a public bathroom a short distance from the museum, however, with a handwritten note that read “The intention was not to steal. Only to highlight the woeful security.” Although police doubted that the thieves actually had such altruistic intentions, the museum did take steps to improve its security.
8. Van Gogh Museum in Netherlands Robbery, December 2002
The museum, in the heart of Amsterdam, contains the world’s largest collection of Van Gogh works. It holds more than 200 paintings and 500 drawings by the Dutch post-Impressionist.Thieves broke into the Museum and stole two very valuable paintings by Vincent Van Gogh from his early period. The stolen paintings are well known to art lovers: View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church at Nuenen. They were executed in 1882 and 1884, respectively.
9. The Collection of Stephane Breitwieser, November 2001
Can anyone imagine a waiter being involved in as many as 200 art thefts? Everyone will have their doubts but then there is the French waiter Stephane Breitwieser, a man who is collected artifacts worth $1.4 billion from various European museums. In 2001, Breitwieser was caught stealing a bugle in Switzerland, and he ended up confessing to everything. The art was amassed in his bedroom, but not all could be saved; Breitwieser’s mother, either out of love or anger, destroyed some of the incriminating evidence. Go figure, Breitweiser wrote an autobiography in 2006.
10. Stockholm Museum Theft in Sweden, December 2000
A crime that sent the whole Sweden in mourning when three crooks barged into the National Museum, wearing ski masks and carrying pistols and machine guns. The criminals knew exactly what they wanted, having studied the flooring plans for months, they went straight for the Rembrandt Self Portrait and two works by Renoir, Jeune Parisienne and La Conversation.