This past December the big news was that two paintings by Vincent Van Gogh were stolen from Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum. But did you know: that it has been estimated that over $2 billion worth of art is stolen each year? And that more than 50% of the art stolen is taken from private homes? Works stolen from Churches and then from Museum and art galleries follow – each making up about 12 % of the balance. Did you know that paintings and sculpture account for approximately 50% of the items stolen? These numbers are astounding and what is even more amazing is that many of these works are never recovered!
While we often hear about the ‘great’ recoveries and the works that are ransomed back, many of the objects stolen just fall between the cracks. The main problem is that many of these stolen items are moved to different countries and are sold privately to unsuspecting buyers. These works often remain in a private collection for many years and many are then resold privately … making detection and recovery very difficult. To top it off, some countries have 2-year statutes! There is also the issue of poor documentation. Many owners do not have appropriate records and photographs of the works they own to aid in their recovery.
As we have stated in the past, we are big believers in the need for proper documentation and photographs of your valuable possessions … whether it be a painting, piece of furniture or your jewelry. Here is most of the information you should have for each valuable object you own:
First, and most importantly, you should have good photographs of both the front and back, and possibly a few close-up shots. Then you should have detailed description of the item including the type of object, its exact size, location of signature (for a work of art), title, date, inscriptions, labels or number that are on the back, and distinguishing features or damages or repairs.
It is also very important that this information is stored in a safe location; away from the object/objects in question … a bank vault is one of the best!
Documentation is also very important to have because, should a work be recovered, you will need to prove that it is yours. Keep in mind that many artists repeated their subject matter and differences between two works could be as little as the coloration of a dress.
What can be done to help deter the thief? The best defense is a good alarm system … and please be sure to keep the alarm system set. Here is a story of a very recent theft... as reported in a recent issue of the Antiques and The Arts Weekly … that may have been prevented if they had only ‘set the alarm’:
The chief executive of the Twin Cities based APi Group had two paintings stolen worth more than $7 million from his beachfront home in Florida.
The paintings by French Impressionist masters Renoir and Monet were stolen after someone entered an unlocked door of [the] Anderson’s home while the security alarm was off, police said. The family’s insurance company has offered a $100,000 reward.
The stolen paintings were a Claude Monet work titled “Paysage a Vetheuil” valued at $4.7 million, and another oil by Pierre Auguste Renoir titled “La Place de Trinite,” valued at $2.7 million.
The paintings were stolen over the weekend of December 28. … nothing else was taken from the home.
It will be interesting to see when, or better still if, these paintings reappear.
Now, what should you do if you discover that a burglary has occurred and some of your valuable possessions were taken? The first thing is to leave the crime scene in tact -- do not disturb the evidence. Second, call your local police department. Third, collect all of your documentation on the stolen objects and give copies to the police. Finally, contact your insurance company.
As I stated earlier, one’s best defense is a good offense. Having a high quality alarm system installed in your home and making sure it is activated is the first step. Keeping the doors and windows locked is the second, and having all your valuable possessions photographed and documented is the last. A few simple precautions may save you a lot of headaches in the future.
While many stolen works of art are never found, there are times when they do surface. During the past year Rehs Galleries has aided the FBI in recovering a number of Édouard Cortès paintings that were recently stolen from a gallery in Naples, Florida and a wonderful painting by Antoine Blanchard that was stolen from a gallery in the early 1960s! Now, 40 years later, it is being returned to its original owner.
On a lighter note, there was a recent apprehension of a thief who stole a Monet, a Degas and a Van Gogh. When questioned by police as to his reasons for stealing works by these artists his reply was: “I needed the Monet to buy De GAS to make the VAN GOgh! Okay, Okay I know … but it was cute, and how many ‘art’ jokes are there anyway … at least it was clean!!
Upcoming Museum Exhibit
Since November we have been working with the Oklahoma City Museum of Art – assisting them in locating a number of works for their upcoming exhibition Americans in Paris: 1850 – 1910. We have helped them secure a number of great Academic works that friends and clients of ours own; included in the exhibit will be three paintings that the gallery has sold: Daniel Ridgway Knight’s La Petite Jardinière; Julien Dupré’s Le Repos dans les Champs; and Louis Aston Knight’s Market Place, Rouen.
The focus of the exhibition is on American artists who traveled to Paris to study, work and exhibit at the Paris Salon during the late 19th century. The exhibit will also feature works by prominent and influential French artists of the period – William Bouguereau, Jean-Leon Gérôme, Julien Dupré, Claude Monet, Alexandre Cabanel and others.
The accompanying catalogue will have essays by Hardy S. George, Ph.D., the museum’s Chief Curator, and the world-renowned scholar on 19th century French Realist and Academic art -- Professor Gabe Weisberg. It should be an interesting show!
The exhibit will run from August 28th – November 30, 2003. We will keep you posted.
Gallery Updates: The gallery has also acquired new works by Édouard Cortès, Antoine Blanchard, Louis Aston Knight, Henry John Yeend King, Heidi Coutu and Sally Swatland – some of which have been added to our site.
Virtual Exhibitions: This month we have added one work to – Rehs Galleries: A Visual History … Édouard Leon Cortès’ The Breton Family (1913). This is one of the earliest and perhaps the largest of the artist’s interior scenes. It was an exciting find that we sold in 2003. The direct link to this work is:
Since our last newsletter we have sold a number of wonderful paintings. Among them were Johann Berthelsen’s 5th Avenue at 60th Street Looking South, and Washington Square Looking North; Heidi Coutu’s Primrose Pasture; Sally Swatland’s At the Beach and The Sand Pail, Fishers Island along with a number of wonderful Cortès paintings, including The Breton Family (1913), Place Pigalle – Winter Evening, Les Bouquinistes, Café de la Paix, and Théâtre du Chatelet.
Next Month: I am not sure yet, but I will make it interesting!