This is by far one of the less flashier art heists I’ve covered; there was no brazen, caught-on-camera theft, no suave criminals dressed as security guards smashing display cases. But it was by far the biggest haul I’ve read about: over 400 (FOUR HUNDRED) drawings, sketches, and watercolors were stolen from the home of Picasso’s step-daughter, Catherine Hutin-Blay, over a two year period between 2005 and 2007. She is the only child of Picasso’s second wife, and inherited her mother and step-father’s house in Vauvenargues, France upon their deaths, along with an unbelievable collection of Picasso’s works. She only became aware of the theft in 2011, when a gallery in Paris contacted for authentication before a sale of one of the pieces. “I went to the filing cabinet to check that the artworks were still there and they were no longer there,” Ms Hutin-Blay told the French newspaper Le Parisien. “That is what triggered everything.”
‘Everything’ now includes a full investigation of the theft, with focus on Freddy Munchenbach, a handyman she hired during the time the pieces are thought to have gone missing. A neighbor, Sylvie Baltazart-Eon (the daughter of Picasso’s late art dealer, apparently everyone who knew Picasso lives in the same town), noticed some pieces of her own collection were missing, too. The women were able to deduce the thing they had in common: the handyman.
Now, I’m sorry, maybe I’m not as worldly or related-to-Picasso, but isn’t a stash of irreplaceable art something you’d check on more frequently than every few years? I know I’m anxious in general, but I sometimes have panic attacks at work about where I stashed a specific scarf at home. I’m not victim-blaming here, but if a gallery in a different city has to alert you to a theft that occurred in your own home more than four years previous, maybe you’re not being careful enough?
All 400 pieces are only valued at 1 to 2 million euro total, a weirdly low sum (that’s only €5,000 per piece as compared to the millions his works usually bring in at auction). To date, 22 of the 400 pieces have been recovered.