January 17, 2012

Tuesday, January 17, 2012 - , No comments

Why do thieves steal paintings by Picasso?

Picasso's "Nude, Green Leaves
 and Bust"/Estate of Pablo Picasso
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-chief

After international headlines reported the theft of a Picasso painting from Greece last week, a Spanish journalist inquired with ARCA as to why paintings by Pablo Picasso were the target of so many art heists? Was it because the artist was so productive? Or because he was so famous? In response, I said that headlines also typically reported record sales or 'the most expensive paintings' and that in the past two decades, paintings by Picasso had been sold publicly through auction houses and dubbed as "most expensive painting") (Wikipedia)

Here's the list of Picasso paintings as sold from 1989 through 2010 with links to a sample headline heralding the sale (Year of sale, title of painting, reported sales price in millions of US dollars, and the auction house):

1989, Au Lapin Agile, $40.7MM, Sotheby’s New York;

1989, Yo, Picasso, $47.85MM, Sotheby’s, New York;
1989, Les Noces de Pierrette, $49.3MM, Binoche et Godeau, Paris;
1997, Le Rêve, $48.4MM, Christie’s, New York;

1999, Femme assise dans un jardin, $49.6MM, Sotheby’s, New York;
2000, Femme aux Bras Croisés, $55.0MM, Christie’s, New York;
2006, Dora Maar au Chat, $95.2MM, Sotheby’s New York;
2004, Garçon à la pipe, $104.2MM, 2004 Sotheby’s New York; and
2010, Nude, Green Leaves and Bust, $106.5MM, Christie’s New York.

The publicity of record sales for Picasso paintings creates an awareness amongst thieves that the artworks by Picasso are valuable to both art collectors and the public.  A thief wouldn't need expert knowledge to determine which paintings on display are valuable, only access to the newspaper headlines reporting public sales of expensive art.