Thieves make off with millions of unsellable artwork

Kai Ryssdal Oct 17, 2012
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Thieves make off with millions of unsellable artwork

Kai Ryssdal Oct 17, 2012
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One art museum in the Netherlands has empty spaces on its gallery walls today. Thieves made off with as much as $130 million in artwork from the Kunsthal museum early Tuesday morning. Missing: a Picasso, a couple of Monets and a Gauguin, among others.

Robert Wittman is an art security and recovery consultant and the former senior investigator of the FBI’s National Art Crime Team. He’s also the author of “Priceless: How I Went Undercover to Rescue the World’s Stolen Treasures.” He says a heist like this is done by people who aren’t art thieves.

Though the paintings that were stolen are worth a lot of money, it will be nearly impossible to make any money from them. It’s true that some stolen art is bought and sold, but not pieces as valuable — or recognizable — as the ones taken from the Kunsthal.

Wittman says almost all artwork is ultimately recovered. “It might take a few years but eventually they call come back because let’s face it, these outlive all of us,” he says. “We’re here for a short amount of time, these paintings are here for centuries, some of them.”

Wittman thinks the thieves that organized this heist were probably long-time criminals who have experience stealing things that are more easily sold again for profit with little chance of being traced — like cars.

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