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Bad, Bad Art Thief!

The Europeans caught the Romanians who robbed the Matisse and Picasso and 5 other paintings from the Kunsthal in the Netherlands last fall.

In the movies, art thieves are often portrayed as clever and acrobatic high-class cat burglars. Reality is so disappointing - these guys just seemed like young ruffians, and one of their mothers managed to torch 3 of the 7 paintings trying to hide the evidence!

I'm impressed the police tracked down the thieves, but I'm disappointed the police didn't do more to "rescue" the paintings before anything bad like that happened. They shouldn't have been surprised - some other art thief's mom threw a bunch of his stolen art in a canal!

Reminds me of Mark Miodownik's distinction between the portrayal of diamond thieves and gold thieves in his book Stuff Matters (a fun and light read about materials, from diamonds to chocolate to concrete):

"As the wealthy were acquiring large diamonds at an ever increasing rate, a new type of occupation was being born: that of a cat burglar. Diamonds' lightness and high value meant that stealing a diamond, even one the size of a marble, could allow you to retire for life, and once stolen they were essentially untraceable. This new type of thief was embued with the virtues of diamond itself: elegant, sophisticated, and unadulterated. In films such as To Catch a Thief and The Pink Panther, diamonds play the role of a princess cruelly imprisoned. Upstanding members of society by day, cat burglars by night, their rescuers were played by film stars like Cary Grant and David Niven. In these films, a diamond robbery is portrayed as a noble act. The daimond thief is light on his or her feet, and requires only a black catsuit and a knowledge of sophisticated stately homes and combination safes located behind paintings. In contrast, the stealing of cash or gold from a bank or train was depicted as a grubby crime, often carried out by brutish and greedy men."

But a painting is a lot less easy to sell-off than a diamond - as explained in this great interview with the FBI's first art-crimes director:

By the way, if you're thinking about seeing the recent art heist movie about the Goya painting called "Trance" I highly recommend you don't. It has a brilliant first 10 minutes, but the second half is a violent mess with a plot and character "twists" they don't sell.

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