What have you always wondered about the economy? Tell us

Thieves make off with millions of unsellable artwork

Kai Ryssdal Oct 17, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

Thieves make off with millions of unsellable artwork

Kai Ryssdal Oct 17, 2012
HTML EMBED:
COPY

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.

Marketplace is on a mission.

We believe Main Street matters as much as Wall Street, economic news is made relevant and real through human stories, and a touch of humor helps enliven topics you might typically find…well, dull.

Through the signature style that only Marketplace can deliver, we’re on a mission to raise the economic intelligence of the country—but we don’t do it alone. We count on listeners and readers like you to keep this public service free and accessible to all. Will you become a partner in our mission today?

Your donation is critical to the future of public service journalism. Support our work today – for as little as $5 – and help us keep making people smarter.