Bart Art

The Art Mob

There was another major heist at a European Art Museum yesterday – this time in the Netherlands at the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.

Thieves broke in at 3am, set off alarms and managed to get away with 7 targeted works in less than 5 minutes, which is how long it took for the police to arrive.

Some people look on art theft as a fun, cinematic type of larceny. The stuff being stolen is extremely valuable but of no real use. Rich people and insurance companies suffer the loss. And if you’re the burglar, you could be a toned and sexy genius – a talented thrill seeker too smooth to get caught.

The Wall Street Journal says art theft is a $6 billion global black market, and the U.S. is the biggest single destination for taken treasures. But if you wind up with one of the more than 1,000 pilfered Picassos, you probably won’t be able to sell it because it’s logged in at the Art Loss Register, a worldwide database of missing masterpieces.

You’ll have to install it on the back side of a revolving wall, a priceless bauble to be shown only to “special” guests at your penthouse, but only after too many drinks have been poured and just before the cigars are lit.

Unless, of course, you come into it by accident, completely unaware that the “nice” picture you paid $15 for at a garage sale is the subject of an international search-and-rescue operation. Unlikely, but it could happen, what with all the quirky heist junkies out there. After all, it’s just a game to them. Who knows where the stolen art is hiding?

What object in your home could be a stolen work of art?

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67 thoughts on “The Art Mob”

  1. a couple of years ago i went on a art spree on ebay and bout art without certicifates of authenticity just because. 1000 bucks is a lot to pay for a piece of art but not f it is a real live work by someone who just lost the certification.
    i have some nice pieces i really enjoy and when i showed them to a couple of art knowledgeable people they agreed that many are likely the real deal but in reality i will be the one to enjoy the art for arts sake rather than boasting a valuable collection. i do have among the collection, picasso, miro,franz kline, jackson pollack, giacommetti, dubuffet, modigliani, matisse, kokoschka and a couple of lesser known artists. this all started because my bass player int he old rock and roll band was a ceramics guy who was very art savy and studied painting sculpture and ceramics at the u of minnesota in the 70’s when the abstract expressionist fallout landed there in the art department and told stories of kline pollack hans hoffman, franz marc, rothko, gorkey newman and the new yourk art scene of the 50’s and 60’s. that in turn got me interested and while i was cutting my teeth in business i took some classes from some notable people in night classes, george morrison, malcom meyers, david steinberg tom cowette ,herman somberg all adding to the art appreciation aspect of my life. the bass player went on to fame and fortune and i am told that his stuff i have from his early days as a sculptor and painter is quite valuable. i have other art i enjoy just for arts sake with no name dropping power and while maybe that is best but i do like looking at the high test names on the wall and feeling like a collecter.

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    1. tim took Linda and I on a short tour of the art in his house following a book club meeting. I enjoyed looking this collection including the ones that do appear to be by famous artists even if they are not certified.

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  2. Good morning. I doubt that we having any stolen works of art hanging on our walls. We do have some paintings and drawings done by my daughter. I think these are great works of art.

    Maybe there is a great work of art among some of the things we inherited from our parents. Could that little woven rug that covers the top of a dresser from my my parents be valuable? Maybe the spiraling wooden pedestal from my wife’s family was done by a great artist. Who know?

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  3. I don’t think any of the art in our house could be stolen art. While we do have original paintings, we know where they came from. The old paintings are all from Hans’ parents and grandparents, and are all by Danish painters, a couple of whom are quite well known. Our contemporary paintings we bought from the artists who painted them. Like tim, we’ve bought what we like and enjoy looking at, not to mention what we could afford. If the paintings turn out to have appreciated in value by the time we sell them, that would be great, but we have never thought of them as investments.

    We enjoy going to art crawls, visiting local artists in the studios. We think it’s important to support local artists but have only bought a few items so far. With so much of our wall space taken up with Hans’ photos and those dark, old paintings, we don’t have much room to display more paintings. Perhaps it’s time divest ourselves of some of Hans’ family heirlooms and reinvest the money in more contemporary art.

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  4. I’ve written before about the law firm where I worked quite some time ago. At the time I was offered the job, I also had an offer from another, larger law firm. One of the reasons I chose the firm I went to work for was their art work. In their lobby they had a series of twenty Picasso lithographs, and throughout their offices and hallways hung a large collection of contemporary original artworks. I figured a firm that cared that much about their work environment couldn’t be all bad, and I was right.

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    1. i used to work with northrup king in their corporate headquarters in ne mpls. the art collection was outstanding, the rural landscape collection was very nice. they split off the division i was working with from the ag seed division and it disapperaed. hope the art went somewhere good.

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  5. My daughter has a collection of art on her walls that came from other students in her studio art classes. She obtained these by trading some of her work for some of theirs. I think it is a very interesting collection showing a wide range of approaches to producing art.

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    1. i have a glass blowing buddy dick huss who trades his stuff for other peoples stuff. he was high test when i met him and sold pieces that sold for 10 to 20 thousand dollars a piece. today he tries to pay for the gas to run the furnace in the glass blowing facitlity.
      i heard the other day on the news tht the art and music programs in minnesota have been downsized in our schools by 84%. as the artists out there have a harder time getting the life as an artist concept to work we need to value those that are here while they are.

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      1. It seem that, some how, art and music are treated at unnecessary additions to public education. I heard someone say that they should be a regular part of an education that is just important as reading, writing, and arithmetic. I think that is right. I wouldn’t expect every person to become a lover of art and music, but I think everyone should have the opportunity to take art and music classes.

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      1. Well, if you’re going to buy art, it’s very much a ‘caveat emptor’ situation. There are ways you can hedge your bets but there is, inherently, a certain amount of risk that you’re buying a fake. Talented artists (and even non-talented ones) can produce ‘homages’ that are just signed ‘after…’ in very, very small print. Or some starving artists are doing it just to get some money. Technology has improved to the point that a good ink jet copy/print can look very genuine, especially on-line, where you can’t hold it for close inspection. If you look at the ‘art’ section on ebay, you’ll find LOADS of Picassos, Warhols, Degas, … you wouldn’t believe all of the art that’s out there. And that’s exactly, right…you shouldn’t believe it all. For my part, I have learned quite a bit…been burned a few times. Even buying directly from the artist can sometimes be a little dicey. Legendary artist, Wally Wood, at the end of his career had awful health issues and, essentially, couldn’t draw anymore. It’s generally regarded that most of Wood’s later art was actually done by his art assistants.

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        1. Since I don’t buy art as an investment, I’m pretty safe. I can’t think of a piece of art that I would buy simply because of who created it, but I know what you mean. Our local potter, Warren MacKenzie, some years back quit signing his pot because it upset him that people were buying them for the wrong reasons.

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  6. In November of 1984 I crossed an icy marsh one night. My companion was my 12-years-old springer spaniel, Brandy. The two of us barely survived that crossing. My buddy Bill was hunting nearby but he failed to understand that my shots that night were cries for help. His oversight came close to causing Brandy and me to die. Bill is driven by guilt in general, so it wasn’t surprising that he commissioned a work of art of that experience from his friend, Betsy Bowen (North Shore woodcut artist). That work is in my living room.

    The work next to it on my living room wall is an original Ed Durose oil painting. Ed has gone on to make a career in wildlife art, but at the time he did this painting of Brandy he was a sweet high school kid who was quite incompetent at painting. I think Kathe paid him $50 to do the portrait as a Christmas gift for me. If someone stole it, the portrait might be worth $50 on the black market now.

    In the corner of the room is a plein aire painting of Bark Bay slough, up near my cabin. It might be worth a few bucks.

    Few people notice the rock I have that is painted to look like a sleeping chipmunk. It is extremely charming and important to me as the only original art I have from my sculptor friend Sue.

    All this stuff means a great deal to me but has no value for just about anyone outside my family.

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    1. thats the true meaning of art. something that makes you feel.
      good bad strongly whatever. it means a great deal to you and that is enough.

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  7. The only piece of art we own that has any real value is an original Howard Sivertson, a 20 X 24 inch watercolor of a Superior boathouse in a winter storm. I am going to take it to GM and have it appraised and then sell it. Since it is nothing like his usual stuff, I have no idea of its value. I have flirted with putting it on Craig’s List at some high price just to see if I get it. In Mankato I won’t.
    At our last place, where we had more walls and room generally, we had over 500 items of original art and craft on display, about 30 watercolors by my wife’s best friend, a professional artist, about 35 by other folks, the rest by me, more wood carvings than art. We gave some away, put some in storage upstairs, and threw some away. Most is still here. Since then I have quit framing my art, just put it in files, which for pastels is not very good. I wrote a blog of my own asking why I do draw, carve and paint pastel when it will just be destroyed someday. Why not just paint a picture and rip it up?
    We will be downsizing again in about three months which will make that issue very real.

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    1. My, but you are way too trusting, Lisa. I am on the whole not very good. Every so often I rise to mediocrity. But when my wife got so sick I used pastels as a retreat. I had bought a sketch pad of fairly-toothy eggshell 100 lb paper at 8 X 16 inches. Somehow that format has clicked for me. I have done several since then, one of which we did frame. I have a decent scan of that, which I will put on my blog in a few minutes.
      Regrading our home: our lease expires at the end of March. I am starting to explore other options.

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      1. i think you found your media clyde. it is similar to your other stuff but a little freer in the loosness of it. it is perfect for the leaves and detail you like to put in and works well for your eye. keep it up.

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        1. try lisitng it on craigs list and or on ebay (i think i can list it in my store for a nickle but ebay takes their 15% cut. and see if you can sell it that way. happy to help if i can.

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      1. Thanks, tgith. Mine is in that vein. Water color shoreline. I was thinking of a price of around $1500. I would contact his daughter Liz, who I know well, or once did, former students, except you cannot contact Liz.

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  8. Morning–

    We have a lot of photographs on our walls. Some taken ourselves, some are professional shots of things. We have some art from Arizona that was my wife’s uncles that he purchased down there. Those are nice enough they could have been pilfered. Some pottery, some sculptures, some paintings.

    Several years ago, my siblings and I hired Ron Hunt to do a watercolor painting of the farm as a gift for my folks. I made a frame out of old home sawn lumber and together it all looks pretty nice.
    Only valuable in sentiment.

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  9. I have three paintings by Frank Wetzel, a Minnesota artist, that I really love. Don’t know if they’re worth anything – I got them in barter for my Space Wizard (organizing) work. Anyone familiar with him?

    Husband and I, when in Winona in early 80s, were taking wood to the town wood dump place, and noticed something red over to the far side. It turned out to be a very nice rug (8×10?) – dark red and oriental pattern. We took it home and cleaned it up – even checked with a microscope for bugs. Used it for years – couldn’t figure out why someone would dump it, since it wasn’t even frayed yet. I kept hoping it would end up being valuable, till I saw the same pattern on a smaller rug in a second hand furniture store – it was an oriental copy.

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    1. I have visited Frank Wetzel’s studio during the Art-A-Whirl open studio tours. Are the three paintings you have oils or watercolors?

      I love oriental rugs, and own nine of them in different sizes. The largest one is in our dining room. It’s a very old rug, and quite threadbare, but it’s beautiful, and I love it. I also own a small, antique Navajo weaving that I purchased in 1968. It’s not a rug but rather a wall hanging. It was old when I bought it, although I’m not sure how old. I consider it a treasure. I also have a small collection of Inuit carvings, several in soap stone and a few in walrus tusks. I love primitive folk art. Again, I collect these things simply because I love them, not because of any monetary value that the may or may not have.

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    2. Glad you know of him, PJ. They are watercolors. I’ll point them out next time the BBC lands here…

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  10. My most “valuable” piece of art is probably worth $1.00 for the frame it’s in.

    A print of a Gauguin painting was one of the 2 things that my sibs and I all wanted when we divided up items from my parents’ house. We decided not to try to make it even in terms of monetary value – as long as only one person wanted any given item, s/he could have it. It came down to the two items, the Gauguin print and a table lamp made out of a wallpaper printing form.

    Because I took so little else, my sister suggested that I could have those two items. My brother didn’t put up too much of a fuss. His only comment about the lamp was “It’s very tall and nice for reading”. My sister and I scoffed at his lack of sentimentality and so I got the lamp. My brother bought the house from the estate and within days had purchased a very tall lamp, nice for reading.

    The Gauguin print is above my mantle and I still love it. The lamp sits, beloved and tall, nearby.

    I commissioned a metal artist to make a table base for a beautiful piece of butcherblock made from exotic woods. She came to my house to get ideas for the form for the table base. I told her the story of the beloved Gauguin and she ended up making a table base that echoes the form of the tree in the print.
    Now I have another beloved object.
    Here’s the painting:
    http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/paul-gauguin/the-white-horse-1898

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    1. I’ll take a good print over a bad original any day. Of course, it’s a matter of opinion what’s considered good or bad.

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    1. I’m curious about your collecting cartoons. Is it the original art work you collect? If so, do you display it? I obviously know nothing about this, so I hope you don’t mind what may well be a really stupid question.

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      1. I have some pieces (like this one) archivally matted, framed, and hanging in our Living Room. But there’s only so much wall space and I generally try to hang pieces so they are not in direct sunlight, which will damage the artwork (fading). For those pieces that are not on matted/framed, I keep them in a portfolio. Oh, and, yes, I collect originals. The actual artwork that got/gets sent to the printers for publication. And sometimes, sketches not meant for publication but original drawings by the artists.

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        1. I know a man who long ago cleaned out a studio where C. Schultz worked. He keeps thinking what is now the value of what he then threw out.
          My son had a collection of illustrator work of decent value and then lost his job and it kept him going for a few months. BTW, son and wife are now in downtown Seattle at their provided apartment, about three blocks from the Needle. He sent a night-time photo of the Needle out their window. First time I thought that was pretty. Today they are apartment hunting.

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        2. Introduced to comic books at a very young age by my older brothers. Helped teach me to read, good stories back then, and I’m a big nostalgia fan. Got irked with comics’ lack of good stories and got into vintage radio. That led me to listening to The Shadow. Listening to the old radio shows got me hooked on The Shadow pulp magazine. Still haven’t worn through that interest yet.

          Clyde, I won’t even tell you what Sparky’s strips sell for now. It would only depress you.

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        3. Oh, and the actual art thing…well, I was recruited to help out with the comic conventions and hanging with the cool artists finally got me into buying their art.

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  11. Husband, back when he was a furniture maker, had his shop in the same building where Larry Hofmann, a local painter, had his studio. Larry has been a friend for many, many years. For my 55th birthday, husband gave me one of Larry’s paintings. Can’t post a picture of that particular painting, but here’s a link that’ll give you some idea of Larry’s work:
    http://www.grovelandgallery.com/artistdetail.php?aID=HofL

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      1. Clyde, Larry is an amazing artist, and a genuinely interesting man. He’s the most meticulous person I know. He’s also a musician and plays in a rock-n-roll band.

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        1. If you’ve ever been in the International Multifoods building in downtown Minneapolis, you’ve seen one of Larry’s HUGE paintings. It covers an entire wall in the lobby of the building.

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