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Paris art heist: The alarm that didn't sound, the dog that didn't bark

A day after the $123 million Paris art heist, revelations emerged that hinted of an inside job. A malfunctioning alarm was too quiet for guards to hear.

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The stolen works include Pablo Picasso's "Le pigeon aux petits-pois" (The Pigeon with the Peas); "La Pastorale" (Pastoral) by Henri Matisse; "La femme a l'eventail" (Woman with a Fan) by Amedeo Modigliani; "L'olivier pres de l'Estaque" (Olive Tree near Estaque) by Georges Braque; and "Nature morte aux chandeliers" (Still Life with Chandeliers) by Fernand Leger.

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"Even in a world of human suffering, this is worth a tear," Jonathan Jones writes today in The Guardian.

Earlier this month, Picasso's “Nude, Green Leaves and Bust” was auctioned at Christie’s for $106.5 million, making it the most expensive piece of art ever sold.

Where might the paintings end up?

But since the stolen pieces are far too famous to be sold on the open market, experts have been noodling three main ideas about a rationale of profitable disposal.

The thief may sell the paintings to a lone art egoist wishing to possess the precious historical pieces as his or her own. This theory gained prominence after the $500 million theft from Boston's Isabella Gardner museum in 1990, never solved, when art security firms described anonymous buyers, often in Asia, whose collections existed unseen and unknown.

There’s an “art hostage” theory, in which the stolen works are photographed and held for ransom on the threat of damage or loss. Another is the “parallel market” concept in which fantastically valuable art becomes part of collateral or barter in trades involving drugs or arms or other contraband – a thieves' market, so to speak.

Paris's Museum of Modern Art is part of the Palace of Tokyo, itself part of a set of tall modernist-era structures along the Seine at Trocadero – built for the 1937 universal exhibition that featured both Picassos’ famous Guernica painting of the carnage of Nazi civilian bombing, and also a German-Nazi exhibit with a huge swastika that was placed directly across from an image of a Soviet worker.

The French online Rue 89 reported today a "source close to the mayor's office" said the works were not insured. "To put things simply," this source said, "it will be from our own [the city’s] pocket."

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