Stollen Art – a Growing Business – Such a Huge Subject!!

Art theft is usually for the purpose of resale or for ransom (sometimes called artnapping). Stolen art is sometimes used by criminals as collateral to secure loans.[1] Only a small percentage of stolen art is recovered—estimates range from 5 to 10%. This means that little is known about the scope and characteristics of art theft.

In 2015 the Penticton Art Gallery had the theft of a painting June 27th stolen at the conclusion of their Annual Fund Raising Auction. The painting was by an Alberta artist – Brent Laycock – with a title “Okanagan Rhythm” which is an acrylic on a canvas wrapped board – 18 inches high, 24 inches wide, signed on the lower right and verso. The labels on the piece come from the artist’s gallery.

Paul Crawford, Director/Curator of the Gallery has offered a reward for anyone leading to the safe return of this painting.  Here is a copy taken from the page printed on July 7, 2015.


((It seems the photo of the stollen piece of art from the Penticton Art Gallery keeps removing itself from this page!! – (I am not a computer tech) – so please go to page July 7, 2015 and the full article is there.))

Please call Paul Crawford if you have seen this picture somewhere – someone’s basement wall? 250-493-2928. There is an reward waiting to be handed out as of February 2, 2018.

When artworks are stolen, it is big news. Over the years Edward Munch has received a great deal of publicity because his work “The Scream” has been stolen twice. Interpol got involved. It should be pointed out that “The Scream” was stolen in 1994; another version stolen in 2004. The original work was recovered thank fully.

Interpol has created a list of over 25,000 paintings and sculptures that have been stolen. It is very important to check the list from time to time.

In 2016, one of New York’s most prominent art dealers, Nancy Wiener, was charged with selling millions of dollars worth of stolen artefacts to collectors and museums around the world for years, including the Metropolitan Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Australia. Her case is still before the courts and came after another New York dealer, Subhash Kapoor, was charged in India in 2011 with selling more than $100-million (U.S.) in stolen artwork to museums in the United States, Asia and across Europe. Mr. Kapoor is awaiting trial in India.

Canada hasn’t been immune from controversy. In 2015, then-prime minister Stephen Harper returned to India Parrot Lady, a 900-year-old sculpture that somehow ended up in Canada in 2011 after mysteriously vanishing from the Khajuraho temples in India.

We are aware of thefts from containers being shipped from Europe into Canada.

The following are theft stories from the Globe and Mail  –  


Recovery of three stolen Riopelle paintings just tip of iceberg

The Sûreté du Québec and Montreal police recovered three Jean-Paul Riopelle paintings on Monday from a Montreal home after receiving a tip.





The Sûreté du Québec and Montreal police recovered three Jean-Paul Riopelle paintings on Monday from a Montreal home after receiving a tip.




PUBLISHED JANUARY 26, 2017UPDATED APRIL 13, 2017      Globe and Mail

It’s a touch of high art that graces the crime pages at surprisingly frequent intervals: A Riopelle work is stolen and one more piece of the legacy of one of Canada’s greatest artists disappears into the underworld.

Then, occasionally, good news: The Sûreté du Québec and Montreal police recovered three paintings from a Montreal home after receiving a tip. They have not revealed the address or identity of who was holding the paintings. Investigators have made no arrests in the case and Sgt. Claude Denis of the SQ says an investigation is ongoing.

The crated paintings disappeared in 1999 from a warehouse just after clearing customs at a Montreal airport. They were in the process of being sold by an American gallery to a Montreal-based collector.

A search of public archives reveals no fewer than 19 cases of Riopelle artwork robbery in Canada between 1989 and 2015, and those are just cases made public. No Canadian artist was as famous as Jean-Paul Riopelle in the 1950s and ’60s and none, it seems, a bigger target for theft since.

The draw of Riopelle works to thieves is a simple case of high supply, high profile and high demand. He had a prolific career before his death in 2002, he was globally famous for decades and his works routinely draw seven-figure prices on the international market. His greatest paintings have sold for $1-million or more at least 14 times, but he also created hundreds of smaller, easy-to-carry works.

His, paintings, lithographs, sculptures and other works of art are scattered through homes, businesses and galleries around the world but especially in Quebec, where budgets for security aren’t always commensurate with the value of the works on display. Theft victims have ranged from major Montreal galleries to Westmount homes to a local museum in Baie-Saint-Paul, Que.

“He really was one of the biggest shooting stars among Canadian artists. For decades he was Canada’s most internationally known artist,” said Simon Blais, a Montreal art dealer and Riopelle expert who was first immersed in the artist’s work 38 years ago. “But his draw isn’t limited to the legitimate world. Just the name brings so much attention. In 2002 I opened a new gallery with a Riopelle show and within two weeks I had a break-in. Some look at art for its beauty, some for monetary value. And everybody knows Riopelle.”

The thefts over the years have ranged from professional to laughably inept to tragically dumb. In 2010, a thief tried to sell some lithographs stolen from a Montreal art shop on Kijiji. In 2011, two 1963 bronze statues worth $1-million were stolen by scrap-metal scavengers from Mr. Riopelle’s workshop. At 450 kilograms they were too heavy to move very far and ended up broken in a field. The sculpture stolen in Baie-Saint-Paul in the late 1990s ended up in pieces in a dumpster after the thief panicked and ran.

Art is currency for Quebec’s biker and Mafia gangs who have their own internal trade on the prestigious items. In the early 2000s when police were cracking down on organized crime in Quebec, they found a bronze Riopelle bust at a gang member’s home. A 2006 drug raid in Quebec City uncovered 2,500 paintings in a warehouse, some of them by Mr. Riopelle. The art was used to launder drug money.

Mr. Blais said art trades in the underworld for about 5 per cent to 10 per cent of its market value, but that’s still plenty of motivation. “If you owe the Mafia money and you don’t have it, a stolen painting provides a handy way to get out of it,” he said. “Paintings are light to handle, relatively easy to rob and for criminals they’re like money in the bank.”

Every Riopelle piece has a special significance. The works recovered Monday, which included two untitled pieces and another 49-by-54 centimetre paper-on-canvas piece named Eskimo Mark, were sought by art dealers because they represent Mr. Riopelle’s early use of an opaque watercolour known as “gouache.”

“They show him striking off in a new direction,” Mr. Blais said.


Officials return $15 million Picasso painting stolen in France




UPDATED MARCH 25, 2017    Globe and Mail

The U.S. government on Thursday formally returned a painting by Pablo Picasso valued at $15 million that had been stolen from a Paris museum more than a decade ago and seized by immigration officials late last year in New Jersey.

During a ceremony at the French Embassy, Sarah Saldana, director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement, officially repatriated the abstract artwork, titled “La Coiffeuse” or “The Hairdresser.” It was signed over to Frederic Dore, the Embassy of France’s deputy chief of mission.

“There’s a tremendous feeling of accomplishment when we return a piece of art like this,” Saldana said.

The painting was on its way from Belgium to the New York borough of Queens when it was identified and seized in Newark, New Jersey.

Kelly Currie, acting U.S. attorney for the Eastern District of New York, said the package aroused suspicion because it was heading for a climate-controlled storage facility — a peculiar destination for a package carrying French words suggesting it contained a $37 Christmas gift.

Currie said the speed with which government agencies handled the case was “unprecedented.”

“The United States is not an easy market for black-market smuggling of art and antiquities,” he said.

Details of who sent the package and how the painting was stolen weren’t provided and the investigation continues. Currie said no arrests have been made.

Picasso painted “La Coiffeuse” in 1911. The brownish Cubist painting, which is no bigger than a pizza box, sat on a tan easel wrapped in plastic and situated behind a burgundy rope for the duration of the event.

In November 2001, officials at the National Museum of Modern Art in Paris discovered the artwork was missing from storage when they went to retrieve it in preparation for an exhibition in India.

Officials gave no indication when the painting will be returned to the museum and said it had endured minor damages and would have to be restored.

“The message from ICE today is, ‘This is a part of our mission, a part of the work we do,”‘ Saldana said. “You saw some tremendous investigative work in detecting this piece to begin with and we will continue to do so.”

Quebec painting theft suspects lured to bar by eyewitness

A painting by Montreal artist Simone Blain. It was one of three paintings stolen at an exhibition in Quebec City Friday April 24, 2015. Two women are credited with recognizing the suspects as they stood at a street corner, then luring them to a bar until police arrested them.



PUBLISHED APRIL 27, 2015UPDATED MARCH 25, 2017      Globe and Mail

Two young women are credited with helping catch the suspects in a painting theft at a Quebec City exhibition, during a madcap night in the bohemian circles of the Lower Town district last week.

According to a co-organizer of the event, the women were at a street corner when they ran into two men who they believed had previously been seen running away with three paintings.

The women lured the suspects to a bar and kept them company until police showed up to take them into custody.

Later that night, police officers received a standing ovation when they returned to the exhibition space with the three paintings, co-organizer Phelipe Soldevila said in an interview.

Titled Canadian Bacon 3, the exhibition, which took place last Friday, featured works from about 40 artists from Quebec City and Montreal.

About 800 people were present at the opening, Mr. Soldevila said.

By 11 p.m., the girlfriend of one of the exhibition organizers was dining at a restaurant nearby with three other women. They recalled that two men with French accents tried to flirt with them.

Later, when they returned to the exhibition, which was still ongoing, the women saw the two Frenchmen again.

Mr. Soldevila said the stolen artworks were displayed in a corridor near an emergency exit. One of the women allegedly saw the suspects unhook three of the paintings and run out the door.

There were still about 300 people at the event and some tried without success to chase after the thieves.

The three missing artworks are worth about $1,300, Mr. Soldevila said.

It was past midnight when two of the women at the restaurant ran into the two Frenchmen at a street corner, about 500 metres from the exhibition space.

There were no signs of the paintings but the two women invited the Frenchmen to join them for drinks at bar La Cuisine, a five-minute walk away.

One of the women, who didn’t want her name published, said she didn’t feel she and her friend were in danger because the suspects didn’t appear to be professional thieves.

“It was no exploit,” she said when contacted by phone. “It wasn’t hard. They wanted to go to a bar. We didn’t have to push them.”

She said she and her friend had no precise plan but just kept chatting with the suspects in a friendly way, then discreetly called someone to alert police.

Constable Marie-Eve Painchaud said Quebec City police received a call around 1:45 a.m.

Two men in their 30s were arrested and charged with theft, she said.

One man was arraigned Saturday via video-link from a detention facility, while the other was released after getting a summons to appear at the courthouse at a later date.

Mr. Soldevila said the two women gave depositions to the police. He said the missing paintings were then found, slightly damaged, and returned, to applause from the remaining art lovers at the exhibition.

Mr. Soldevila said he intends to file a formal complaint with police Tuesday.

“You’re stealing from our plates. This is what we do for a living,” he said.

Several emerging artists in Quebec City have been the victims of theft recently, he said, perhaps because they cannot afford the same level of security as more established painters.

“It’s really unfortunate. These are no Robin Hoods, they’re robbing the poor.”




Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *