I need to first thank Lauren for this post (again) because she sent me yet another email tipping me off to more art drama. I LOVE ART DRAMA, in case you hadn’t figured that out yet. My new favorite website? Art World Daily’s “Controversy” section. Sadly, it’s not all about heists, but there is plenty of juicy “scandal” on there to keep me occupied for days.
So, today’s order of business: Two people were sentenced in Miami after attempting to sell a stolen Matisse (why is it always a Matisse these days??), “Odalisque in Red Pants,” to undercover FBI agents. Rookie thief mistake. The painting, which is now valued at around $3 million, was stolen back in 2002 from the Museum of Contemporary Art in Caracas, Venezuela, and a forgery was hung in its place. I don’t know who they think they were fooling:
Matisse’s “Odalisque in Red Pants” (L) and the forgery (R)
Even though the “sting” happened last year (and the heist itself occurred over a decade ago), they weren’t formally sentenced until this week. Each of the suspects is serving over 2-3 years in jail and 3 years supervised probation after their release for transportation and possession of a stolen painting. FBI Officials seized the painting the operation, and have yet to give it back to the museum. Last summer, photographer Violette Bule staged a protest (though I don’t think you can call it a protest if it’s a bunch of topless women) out front of the museum in Venezuela, mimicking the woman in the painting, demanding its return to the museum.
Kudos to these women. I don’t think I would be so brazen, not even in the name of art.
Anyway, I don’t know why the painting hasn’t been returned yet. It’s not ours to keep and it certainly doesn’t make us look great if we do. I’m happy it’s been recovered, definitely, but I wouldn’t say this story is over.