Robbers Steal $163m in Art From Zurich

  1. Robbers Steal $163m in Art From Zurich

    By ERNST E. ABEGG – 4 hours ago
    ZURICH, Switzerland (AP) — Three armed men in ski masks stole four paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet worth $163.2 million from a Zurich museum in one of Europe's largest ever art heists, police said Monday.

    The robbers, who were still at large, stole the paintings Sunday from the E.G. Buehrle Collection, one of Europe's finest private museums for Impressionist and post-Impressionist art, police said.

    It was the largest art robbery in Switzerland's history and one of the biggest ever in Europe, said Marco Cortesi, spokesman for the Zurich police. He compared it to the theft in 2004 of Edvard Munch's "The Scream" and "Madonna" from the Munch Museum in Norway.

    The three masked men wearing dark clothing entered the museum a half-hour before closing Sunday, police said. While one of the men used a pistol to force museum personnel to the floor, the two others went into the exhibition hall and collected the four paintings.

    One of the men spoke German with a Slavic accent, police said. They loaded the paintings into a white vehicle parked in front of the museum.

    Police, asking for witnesses to come forward, said it was possible that the paintings were partly sticking out of the van as the robbers made their getaway.

    A reward of about $90,000 was offered for information leading to the recovery of the paintings — Claude Monet's "Poppy field at Vetheuil," Edgar Degas' "Ludovic Lepic and his Daughter," Vincent van Gogh's "Blooming Chestnut Branches," and Paul Cezanne's "Boy in the Red Waistcoat."

    The FBI estimates the market for stolen art at $6 billion annually, and Interpol has about 30,000 pieces of stolen art in its database. While only a fraction of the stolen art is ever found, the theft of iconic objects, especially by force, is rarer because of the intense police work that follows and because the works are so difficult to sell.
    Buehrle, a German-born industrialist who provided arms to the Third Reich during World War II, amassed one of Europe's greatest private collections in the aftermath of the war. He also owned at least 13 works of art at the war's end that were included on British specialist Douglas Cooper's "looted art list," which was used to recover pieces stolen from Jews by the Nazis.

    The museum is housed in a villa adjoining Buehrle's former home, which he used to store part of his collection before his death in 1956.

    Lukas Gloor, the museum's director, said the robbers stole four of the collection's most important paintings. But, he said, they appeared to have taken the first four they came to, leaving even more valuable paintings hanging in the same room.

    The museum also owns Auguste Renoir's "Little Irene" and Edgar Degas' "Little Dancer."
    "We are happy that no employees or visitors were hurt," Gloor said.

    The stolen paintings were hung behind glass, and a security alarm went off as soon as they were touched, Gloor said at a news conference.

    Three other versions of the Cezanne painting — perhaps the most famous of those stolen — exist in museums in the United States.

    Switzerland boasts a large number of outstanding art collections, some of which have been hit by thefts and robberies over the years.

    Last week, Swiss police reported that two Pablo Picasso paintings were stolen from an exhibition near Zurich. The two oil paintings, "Tete de cheval" ("Head of horse") and Verre et pichet ("Glass and pitcher"), were on loan from the Sprengel Museum in Hannover, Germany.

    Zurich police were pursuing the possibility that the Picasso theft was connected with the robbery, and are in contact with investigators in that case to see if there are any links, Cortesi said.

    At the end of the 1980s, three armed men made off with 21 Renaissance paintings worth hundreds of millions of dollars from a Zurich art gallery. Stolen works included some by Jan Mertens the younger, Jan Steen, Willem van Aelst and Dirk Hals. The case was made public in 1989 when FBI agents in New York arrested two Belgians and recovered stolen paintings.

    In 1994, seven Picasso paintings worth an estimated $44 million were stolen from a Zurich gallery. They were recovered in 2000. A Swiss man and two Italians were jailed for the theft. The stolen paintings included Picasso's "Seated Woman," and "Christ of Montmartre." The two pictures had been stolen from the gallery once before, in 1991.

  2. Here are three of the paintings in question:

    Claude Monet's "Poppy field at Vetheuil"

    Vincent van Gogh's "Blooming Chestnut Branches"

    Paul Cezanne's "Boy in the Red Waistcoat"
    Poppy Field.jpg Blooming Chestnut Branches.jpg Red Waistcoat.jpg
  3. I was at a doctor's appointment and while I was waiting, this story as a news brief came on the screen. I remember letting out an audible gasp.

    That pisses me off SO much! Suppose those were damaged?
  4. How do these people get away with this? It has to be an inside job!
  5. Swiss police say found 2 stolen Zurich artworks

    By Sven Egenter Reuters - 2 hours 58 minutes ago
    ZURICH (Reuters) - Swiss police have found two of the four oil paintings by 19th Century masters, which were stolen from a Zurich museum earlier this month in one of Europe's biggest art thefts, they said on Tuesday

    The two paintings, by van Gogh and Monet, were found on Monday in a car parked outside a Zurich psychiatric hospital, police said and have an estimated value of 70 million Swiss francs (33 million pounds).

    Police were notified about the paintings by an employee of the hospital on Monday afternoon who told them there was a suspicious white vehicle in the car park in front of the clinic and there were two pictures sitting on the back seat, the police said in a statement.

    Police did not comment on the possible identity of the robbers as investigations were continuing and also said that they were not aware that a ransom had been paid.

    Claude Monet's "Poppies Near Vetheuil" from 1880 and Vincent van Gogh's "Blossoming Chestnut Branches" from 1890 were found in good condition and were displayed at a news conference in Zurich on Tuesday in their original frames.

    "The severe wound which was inflicted on our house on February 10 has been closed somewhat," said Lukas Gloor, curator of the collection at the museum.

    Masked robbers stole the two pictures as well as Cezanne's "The Boy in the Red Vest" from 1890 and Degas' "Viscount Lepic and His Daughters" from 1871, worth a total of $164 million (84 million pounds), from the private Buehrle Collection, in the second dramatic art theft in the area within days.
    Three men in dark clothing and masks forced their way into the museum last week and made off with the paintings in a white car, police said.

    That robbery followed the theft of two Picasso paintings -- "Tete de Cheval", from 1962, and "Verre et Pichet", from 1944 -- from a nearby cultural centre.
    Police had said a white vehicle may also have played a role in that incident and they would investigate whether the two thefts were connected.
    The Buehrle Collection, housed near Zurich's wealthy Gold Coast lakeside district, was assembled by Swiss industrialist Emil Buehrle who sold anti-aircraft guns to Nazi Germany in World War Two.

    The foundation houses an important assembly of French impressionist and post-impressionist works, which Buehrle collected between 1951 and his death in 1956.


    Thank God they were found unharmed! I hope nothing happens to the other two and they are returned as well!
  6. Wow! I'm amazed people can get away with this! I always thought they had insane security measures like you see in the movies.