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What Happens When Your Van Gogh Is Gone?





When you visit a museum, don't just gaze at the art on the walls. Take a good look at the guards posted in the rooms and doorways, especially their line of sight to the exhibits. Then check out the blinking cameras in the ceiling, the bolted-to-the-wall frames of the paintings and the shatterproof non-reflective casings on the statuary.

And be aware that others, less reputable than you, are doing the same thing.

The recent art theft at the Kunsthal gallery in the Netherlands shows that art thieves also know their way around a museum. And they like Impressionist paintings. These thieves stole two Monets, a Matisse, and a Gauguin, as well as a Picasso. And all in the five minutes before a "state of the art" (no pun intended) alarm alerted the police, who arrived within five minutes.

'Museum of the Missing'

These paintings now belong to the " Museum of the Missing," as one book on the subject describes it, which currently includes 340,000 art objects, according to the Art Loss Register. The "missing" collection also has five Rembrandts.

The paintings removed from the Kunsthal are from the private collection of multimillionaire Willem Cordia, whose family expressed "shock." Which leads us to ask: Why do wealthy collectors lend their artwork to museums and galleries when they risk losing their prized possessions?

Not nailed down

More wealthy people than ever are collecting art. In uncertain times, classic art is a certainty. Auction houses such as Christie's saw art sales soar 200-fold in recent years. And this year when Sotheby's auctioned off Edvard Munch's painting "The Scream," the selling price was a record $120 million. Incidentally, two versions of "The Scream" have already been stolen, with only one recovered.

"The recovery rate for stolen art is minimal," says a study in the Suffolk Transnational Law Journal, at least in the short term.

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