5 Picasso Art Heists and What Became of Them
It turns out that it is not easy selling stolen artworks, and often the art is eventually found in the most strangest of places.
Written by Shelly Mirriam on January 1, 2012
Here at ArtCorner.com, we have a love of all things art. But what happens when you love it too much? Theft is usually the answer. Throughout the ages, thieves have stolen artworks for either love of it or money. However, finding that no one wants to buy stolen artwork, they often hang on to it themselves, and it can end up in the strangest places. To prove it, we have collected five art heists that involved Pablo Picasso art and what became of them:
- Original sketches – Although only valued at $200,000 at the time, these were the first Picasso artworks to ever be stolen. It happened in the University of Michigan during a traveling art exhibit in 1967. They would eventually be found two years later at an auction house and no arrests were ever made.
- Collected works – It would take too long to list all the works of Picasso’s that were stolen in 1976 at the Palais des Papes in Avignon, France. The short of it is that 118 paintings, drawings, and other works by Picasso were the target of the thieves. Detectives actually used a fake American crime boss who wanted to buy stolen Picassos as a way to ultimately catch the thieves who took them.
- Horse’s Head, Glass and Pitcher – In a two for one heist, these paintings were stolen in February of 2008 in the Pfaffikon gallery near Zurich. It was speculated that two thieves stayed after hours when the gallery had closed, then made off with only two paintings out of thousands. The combined total of these two paintings was valued at about $4.5 million. They were found three years later in Serbia, of all places…
- Portrait of Suzanne Bloch – This was part of the art heist that happened at the Sao Paulo Museum of Art in 2007. This Picasso painting and one done by Cândido Portinari’ were the targets of the thieves. The heist took only three minutes to pull off, the loot was worth $55 million, but they were both recovered in 2008.
- Head of a Woman – Think art heists happens only in other countries or in the past? That wasn’t the case with this 1965 Picasso sketch. A man literally walked into the San Francisco museum where it was hanging in 2011, snatched the work off the wall during the day, and drove off in a waiting taxi. He would later be identified as wine steward Mark Lugo, arrested the same year, and served 138 days in prison. Other stolen works were also found in his possession and he is facing an additional 15 years.
There seems to be an unexplained romantic flair to art heists, you kind of root for the villain as you imagine a daring “Thomas Crown” type making his way through thick security and grabbing a Picasso off the wall. However, reality is somewhat different. The heist tends to be violent and the thieves are far from the romantic facade we envision. The most frustrating thing about it, is that even if the thieves succeed to vanish with the loot it is very difficult to actually sell the stolen pieces, and the art ends up hidden at an undisclosed location, many times, never to be found.