Showing posts with label paris art theft. Show all posts
Showing posts with label paris art theft. Show all posts

January 17, 2014

Postcard from Paris: Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris -- galleries restructured and permanent collection displayed away from open windows

Museum view of Eiffel Tower & Siene
by Catherine Schofield Sezgin,
ARCAblog Editor-in-Chief

PARIS - Musée d'Art Moderne de la ville de Paris has undergone a restructuring of its galleries since a thief stole five paintings -- never recovered -- in May 2010. The biggest visible change to visitors today is that the long downstairs gallery facing windows overlooking the Seine and the Eiffel Tower is now a big open space with large, immobile paintings too big to be carried away by one person.
Open gallery with large paintings

Four years ago, portable works by modern paintings hung in the lower level that had access to an outdoor terrace and down steps to the street that runs south along the Seine. Admission to the museum, then and now is free, so it would not have cost a prospecting thief any money to scope out the small works that were be easily removed in the early morning hours while security personnel waited weeks for a part required to fix the security
Shiny lock, sharp shutters
Entrance to the permanent collection

Today the museum appeared to have installed large outworks in the area that had been violated, tore down the wall dividers, and opened up the space. The inside metal shutters vulnerable in the break-in appeared well-maintained and locks nickel sharp.

The permanent collection is now displayed away from the large floor to ceiling windows into small rooms carved out of the middle of the building. More paintings, including some by the artists Picasso and Matisse who's works were stolen, appeared to be on display than even two years ago. This afternoon, with the bookstore full of customers and visitors eating and drinking at the cafe, this museum appeared to have no visible scars of the theft. However, I still can't bear to believe that those paintings, including the one by Braque that I so admired, were really thrown in the trash

June 14, 2011

Picasso's Granddaughter Diana Widmaier-Picasso Discusses 4 Year Old Theft with The New Yorker

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée on display at The Gagosian Gallery in New York (Photo from Gagosian website)

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Picasso's Maya à la Poupée (Interpol)
Just finding information out about an art theft case can be like unraveling a mystery. Four years ago, thieves stole several paintings from the home of Picasso's granddaughter, Diana Widmaier-Picasso. Seven months later they returned but little was reported in the newspaper about the details of the theft. Ms. Widmaier-Picasso spoke to Eric Konigsberg (At the Galleries: Granddaughter) in The New Yorker's current issue (Summer Fiction, June 13 & 20, 2011) and described the people arrested for trying to sell one of the paintings six months later on the street in the 17th Arrondissement of Paris:
"That is how professional art thieves operate. The one in charge had two nicknames, and they're both interesting: the Locksmith and Goldfinger. It was like a Western."
Of the Brigade de Répression du Banditisme she said:
"They treated it like the kidnapping of a person in the family."
One of the paintings, "Maya à la Poupée", of her mother, the daughter of Picasso and his mistress Marie-Thérèse Walter, is currently on display at the Gagosian Gallery on West Twenty-first Street, in an exhibition, "Picasso and Marie-Thérèse" open until July 15.

May 22, 2011

City of Paris Spends 8 million Euros to Revamp Museum Security One Year After the Theft at Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

The walls to the left held the stolen paintings  from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris./Photo by CR Sezgin.
This morning the Museum Security Network sent an email alert about the 8 million euro revamping of the security for the 14 museums under the jurisdiction of the city of Paris.  The article in le Parisian is in French but with my new language crutch, Google Translate, I learned that since the theft from the Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris, when a thief, or thieves, cut the lock and opened a not so secure window to steal five paintings valued at about 100 million euros, that the city has undertaken to reexamine the security at its museums.  The three security guards on duty at the time of the break-in apparently hadn't heard any alarms because the warning system had been offline, waiting many weeks for an apparently crucial part.  On my three visits to the museum I never considered the building so vast that this explanation made sense to me and as now no one has published an account that explains clearly how someone entered the building without any guard on patrol seeing them.  I have a nice photo here showing that if you stand on the stairs you have a clear view of the access to the walls that had supported the stolen paintings.

Le Parisien reports that the city of Paris began a reorganization program this year to strengthen supervision of security staff and to continue improvements in securing the museums through next year, including better communication about malfunctioning alarm systems.  It appears that the museum theft did strengthen the will to fund better security at the museums.

Fixed barred windows at Petit Palais
This past March, before I revisited the 'scene of the crime,' I did visit the Petit Palais, another city museum, where I found beautiful paintings by Cézanne, Gustave Courbet, and even a lower floor of vases from antiquity.  On a Sunday morning the museum was quiet with few visible security guards.  However, I noted that the permanent barred windows likely discouraged theft.  The Musée d'Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris has accordion wrought iron shutters securing its long windows.  In addition, the Petit Palais, instead of backing up against the Seine, is around the corner from a police station.

We'll follow this week with more information about the stolen paintings.  Meanwhile, you can read my fanciful guess about how the theft was committed here on the ARCA Blog.

April 8, 2011

Revisiting the musée d'art moderne de la ville de paris: site of the theft in May 2010 of more than $100 million in paintings

Neighbor's graffiti
Interior view of windows

Last month in Paris, I revisited the musée d'art moderne de la ville de paris for the second time since the robbery of five paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Braque, Léger, and Modigliani on May 20. Last July the museum was humid and bolts on the interior metal shutters seem to have been replaced in at least one window. I speculated on the theft on the ARCA blog here. This March, the amount of graffiti surprised me. The apartment building next to the museum sported new graffiti unusual for this location.  Skateboarders outside the collection played amongst graffiti-marked statutes.  More prominent museums in Paris visited the same week did not exhibit signs of graffiti. Behind the museum, along the Seine and in view of the Eiffel Tower, graffiti covered the doors of basement entrances underneath the balcony the thief may have used to gain entrance before smashing the windows, cutting the paintings out of their frames and disappearing without notifying any security guards. Nothing has been published about the progress of the investigation and the paintings are still missing. -- Catherine Schofield Sezgin, ARCA Blog Editor-in-Chief

Graffiti marks statues outside the museum
Rear windows and balcony along the Seine
Graffiti marks basement doors of museum

February 28, 2011

Art Theft Anniversary: Three Picassos Stolen from Grandaughter in Paris

by Catherine Schofield Sezgin, Editor

Four years ago on February 27, 2007, Pablo Picasso's granddaughter reported the early morning theft of two Picasso paintings worth 50 million euros from her Paris apartment. At about 4 a.m., two paintings had been removed from the Left Bank apartment of art historian Diana Widmaier-Picasso on rue du Grenelle in the 7th Arrondisement. "Maya and the Doll" (Maya a la poupee), is a 1938 portrait of her mother, Maya Widmaier, the daughter of Picasso and Marie-Therese Walter, the artist's companion from 1924-1944. "Portrait of Jacqueline" was painted by PIcasso in 1961 the year he married his second wife, Jacqueline Roque. The theft also included a lead pencil drawing and collage on paper, "Marie Therese at 21 years".

Widmaier and her mother were awoken by a noise, went downstairs, and having noticed nothing, returned to bed. They noticed the missing paintings later that morning. Thieves had neutralized the alarm and had either used the code or the keys to enter the second floor apartment. One painting had been sliced from its frame and another had been removed from the wall although newspaper reports differ as to what happened to each painting.

Pablo Picasso, who died at 91 years of age of a heart attack in 1973, is one of the world's most popular artists. His 1905 "Garcon a la pipe" sold for $104.2 million at Sotheby's in 2004. After Picasso's death, his heirs divided up his paintings.

The Organized Crime Unit of Paris police investigated the theft. In 1976, one of France's largest art thefts, involved the robbery of 118 paintings, drawings, and other Picasso works from a museum in Avignon. Picasso works were stolen from Zurich in 1994; from London in 1997; Rio de Janeiro; and the Pompidou Centre museum in Paris. In 1989, 12 Picasso paintings were taken from the Cannes home of Marino Picasso, another of the artist's granddaughters, and later recovered.

In August, within six months of the theft, Paris police had recovered the two paintings and arrested three people for the robbery which they had had under surveillance for more than a month when a suspect took the rolled-up paintings to a potential buyer.

Photos: "Portrait of Jacqueline" and "Maya and the Doll"

June 3, 2010

ARCA's Colette Marvin at the Scene of the Crime at musée d'art moderne de la ville de Paris

Recently, ARCA's Colette Marvin, Director of Public and Institutional Relations, visited the scene of the crime while on business in Paris. Colette spent the past fall and winter organizing and curating a special exhibit on art crime at the National Museum of Crime and Punishment. Currently, she is engaged in a documentary project focused on the career of the infamous forger, Elmyr de Hory.

May 21, 2010

Time Magazine on the Paris Heist

ARCA commentary was featured in a variety of publications and news programs on the recent Paris art theft. These include the following:

ARCA Trustee Dick Ellis was interviewed for the BBC:

ARCA President Noah Charney was interviewed for TIME Magazine: