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Major Art Thefts Earn Headlines Around the World

Published: 17 Sep 2018

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One was a recent case that was quickly resolved, while the other was a 30-year-old crime that is still being figured out.

The recent case involved the 400-year-old crown jewels of Sweden, which were stolen from Stragnas Cathedral last week. Police quickly leapt into action, while insurance companies and appraisers wondered what the thieves could possibly have been hoping to accomplish. The stolen items, most of which have since been recovered, included two crowns of King Karl IX and Queen Kristina, as well as a royal orb, are considered priceless, but they are also considered impossible to sell: criminologist Leif Persson told the Swedish newspaper Aftonbladet, “As far as I am aware there is no Swedish market for this.

Art thefts of famous pieces like the Swedish jewels leave thieves with few choices. One option is to break the goods down and sell the components, but doing so would significantly lower their value, which is largely historic. Some experts suggested that the thieves might use the iconic pieces as leverage in other criminal cases, offering them in exchange for lesser sentences, while insurance company representatives said thieves sometimes think that they can steal priceless items and then offer to resell them to the insurance company providing coverage. As for the authorities, they believe that the robbery was commissioned by a collector who wanted to keep the jewels for himself.

As for the older theft, it involved a priceless painting by Willem de Kooning that was stolen from the University of Arizona in 1985. The crime made headlines at the time because it was so brazen, and just as in the case of the Swedish jewels, experts wondered what the thieves would possibly do to dispose of the priceless painting. The painting, which was insured for $400,000 at the time of the theft, was recently found hanging in a New Mexico couple’s bedroom. They had apparently stolen it for their own enjoyment. “Woman-Ochre,” now valued at more than $100 million, has been returned to the museum and rehung in the frame that has continued to hang empty ever since the theft.

In the case of the de Kooning painting, security in the Arizona museum was far from high tech. There were no surveillance cameras, and the couple who stole the painting were able to enter the museum before it officially opened by slipping in behind an employee reporting for work, then distracting a security guard. The Swedish theft was a typical smash-and-grab in which the thieves stole historic pieces that were displayed to the public in glass cases.

Your art collection is might be just as valuable to you as the Swedish Crown jewels and the de Kooning painting - but the pieces are also part of our cultural heritage, and deserve to be protected for the enjoyment of generations to come . To make sure that you have the right insurance and protection, contact our specialist art brokers to get help with valuation, appropriate security, maintenance, and insurance for your possessions.

 

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