Art Heist


via RT

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.

9 thoughts on “Art Heist

  1. Little Elgin Marble-esque of us, isn’t it? Forgery = bad. Duh. I would love to know why we’re hanging on, and I’d love to know the reaction to the protest. Still some good, juicy stuff to come out of this story for sure!

  2. That’s certainly one unique way of protesting although I don’t think anyone would complain about the chosen method.

  3. I absolutely love that protest! Not sure if I could participate, but I would so love to be a part of something that beautiful in the name of art.

  4. that seems a bit odd to have kept the painting. i wonder if it’s hanging “for safe keeping” in someones office? they really need to return it, i mean they’ve been sentenced, case closed, yo.

    i wish i could be one of those women. not that i want to hang out in red pants and my tatas, but just the fact that they can do that for the sake of art. that that is an option in their brain is pretty cool. i love that painting, it’s so lovely.

  5. I can’t believe they didn’t give the painting back yet. Did some official like it so much that is hanging on his wall? Can’t he just swap it out for the forgery that was left behind by the thieves at the museum? Love the protest, it probably brought a lot of attention to the case, at least in the art world because I haven’t heard about it until today. Participating in a half naked protest wouldn’t be my cup of tea though. I remember in college when I was taking a nude drawing class and our model didn’t show and each of us had to get up there to be a model for a while, clothes optional. Everybody from my class kept their clothes on ;)

  6. Ok, the photo of that protest is cracking me up. I know I shouldn’t find it funny…Those women are a whole lot braver than I am and doing it for the sake of art is awesome, that’s for sure. Anyway, another interesting heist story. You and Lauren have got something good going here. Why the painting hasn’t been returned is boggling. Maybe because we (American government) set up the sting and recovered the original, we (American government) now believe the painting belongs to us. ?? (So typical.)

  7. is it wrong to say i don’t even like the original? i’d give it back in a heartbeat… it ain’t hanging in my office, that’s for damn sure! :)

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