IT COULD be mistaken for the plot of the Ocean’s Eleven film franchise. In a daring pre-dawn raid, thieves broke into a Dutch museum yesterday and made off under cover of darkness with a collection of paintings worth millions.
Seven works, by the likes of Claude Monet, Pablo Picasso and Henri Matisse, had been exhibited publicly as a group for the first time in Rotterdam.
The collection – valued at roughly £20 million – had been displayed at the Kunsthal museum in celebration of its 20th anniversary, with no expense spared on a “state-of-the-art” alarm system.
However, the alarm failed to prevent thieves from making off with the masterpieces in the early hours.
Dutch police said a call had been received alerting them to the theft around 3am and officers are viewing video footage of the raid.
Rotterdam police spokesman Roland Ekkers said: “The alarm system in the Kunsthal was supposed to be state-of-the-art, but somehow the people responsible for this found a way in and a way out – and they found time to take seven paintings.
“So that’s something that is part of our investigation right now.”
The stolen works include Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin Head and two pastel sketches by the French Impressionist master Monet depicting iconic London settings – Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London.
The 1919 piece Reading Girl in White and Yellow by Matisse, Paul Gauguin’s 1898 work Girl in Front of Open Window and Meyer de Haan’s Self Portrait, painted in about 1890, were other treasures among the loot.
The seventh artwork was Lucian Freud’s 2002 painting Woman with Eyes Closed.
The Glasgow auction house McTear’s Auctioneers & Valuers estimated the rare collection would be worth about £19.5m. The works by Matisse, Gauguin and Freud were each individually valued at about £5m.
Natasha Raskin, the head cataloguer of pictures at McTear’s, said the theft was a sad loss for the art world.
One of Monet’s stolen paintings – a pastel drawing of Waterloo Bridge sketched from the balcony of the Savoy Hotel in 1901 – had been put up for sale last year at £1.5m.
Both paintings were part of a series of 26 surviving sketches by Monet.
None of the pastel drawings had been displayed publicly since a Royal Academy retrospective in London in 2007.
The stolen works are thought to be impossible to sell on the open market.
All seven paintings were part of the private Triton Foundation collection, a display compiled by Dutch investor and businessman Willem Cordia.
Only a few art heists from the past two decades have matched the Rotterdam raid for audacity.
In 2010, five paintings were stolen from the Musée d’Art Moderne in Paris, including a Picasso and Matisse, in a haul estimated to be worth $124m.
Armed robbers stole Edvard Munch’s most iconic painting, The Scream, from the Munch Museum in Norway in 2004 by pulling the work and another painting, Madonna, off the wall in front of stunned onlookers.
The two paintings, which were jointly valued at £10.4m, were recovered with little damage two years later.
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Saturday 25 May 2013
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