HOW Do You Sell Stolen Paintings?

The recent theft of the paintings in Norway made me wonder…how on earth does a thief sell these works? Suppose you were to steal a well-known painting (like the MONA LISA) …who would buy it from you? Usually, a thief sells to a “fence”-a man who takes the risk of selling the loot. This works if the stuff you stole is pretty ananymous,like jewelry. But it is hard for me to think that some billionaire will pay millions for a picture…how could he show his friends? What good would it be to him? He could never reveal that he had it, so he could’t have bragging rights.
Take the case of the Isabell Sturat Garner Museum robbery (Boston, 1990 , I think?). In this robbery, 14 paintings were stolen, one of them was a Vermerr. None of them have ever shown up…are they hanging on some millionaires wall? :confused:

In cases like these, apparently the buyer is the one who “orders” the heist. The painting is already sold before it is stolen.

And yes, I believe it is quite probably that someone has them hanging in a private vault somewhere and only that person and a few others get to see it.

I agree. I suspect the thieves were acting either as kidnappers seeking ransom, or as procurors for somebody who wanted the paintings and didn’t care about legality.

Unless they’re really stupid, in which case, keep an eye on Ebay.

I heard it speculated that the Norwegian theft was carried out by amateurs and probably for the purpose of blackmailing the museum, e.g. they hope to sell it back to the museum.

We’ve already had at least one fake e-bay “auction”. It was pretty well done but has now sadly been removed so I can’t link to it.

I should imagine that it is for ransom, to be honest. Galleries have insurance against theft and ransom and the painting is never going to tell so it’s a fairly low-risk way of making money, so long as you manage to steal it in the first place.


Nah. You make an offer to the company insuring the painting. Its quite the scam, really.

You get an art expert to value the painting. Standards are pretty much non-existent. Say you bought the painting thirty years ago for a million bucks. Art Expert evaluates it at thirty million dollars. You couldn’t sell it for $30 million to save your soul, but thats its assessed value. You donate said painting to a public art museum, noble and generous soul that you are, and write off the difference ($29 million) as a charitable donation. Oink!

Insurance company insures it for that price, calmly. Who the fuck is going to walk into an art museum in broad daylight and steal something they can’t sell? Its like offering hurricane insurance in Nome, Alaska.

But if it does happen, the thieve have no place to go, really. So they offer the painting to the insurance company at some piddling price…say, a million bucks…no questions asked!…and the insurance company coughs up.

elucidator seems to know this subject pretty well. He’s also living in a different state and using a pseudonym to post with. Hmmm…

Its a fair cop, but society is to blame…

Society? Since when did Bush get to get a free pass? Got to be a blame Bush angle in here somewhere…

It’s the economy. It’s forced nipply anarchists to art theft…

-Joe, lost his nipples in Vietnam

[Moderator Hat ON]

I think this will do better in GQ.

[Moderator Hat OFF]

Neither of the most recently stolen paintings were insured against theft.

There was a woman on Nightline, I believe, last night who said that it wouldn’t suprise her to find out that these paintings have become part of a private collection (few, if any, others will see it) and will be “re-discovered” by the family after this collecter’s death, when he is no longer around to enjoy it. She seemed to hint that this situation has happened at least once before, and I forget specific examples. She figures that these paintings may remain out of sight for another 30-40 years, depending on the collecters age.

What is the statute of Limitations on Stolen Paintings?

What is the statute of Limitations on Stolen Paintings?

Or better yet, the limited painting on stolen statues…

While there may be a statute of limitiations on the actual theft, I believe that the stolen property would still need to be returned if discovered, regardless of how long it was missing. There may also be an issue if the thief is actively hiding the object, that may a crime in itself and keep the charge active. IANAL, so take this all with many grains of salt.

There was a clip on The Daily Show (copied from a real news show, of course) of someone saying that they could be use the painting as a form of “alternative currency” between criminals. It was the 8-23-04 show, and they might rerun it in a week or two, if you wanted to see that.

I heard on the news that neither painting, in this case, was insured.

I have heard that many rich people actually do not wear their expensive jewelry in public-their insurance carriers don’t allow it. Instead, they wear fakes, and the real item stays in the bank vault. Do museums do the same?I high-quality 3-d rendition of the Mona Lisa could be made up, and hung on the wall…most of the public would never know the difference!

Personally I wouldn’t give a dime for a dozen “The Scream” paintings, except for the possibility of unloading them, one at a time, on unsuspecting fools for a tidy sum.

Beauty is in the eye of the beholder but “The Scream” ain’t it!

Same goes for elephant, ape, and other “animal paintings.”