$164 Million Art Theft Shocks Art World

Posted on February 13, 2008

Masked gunmen stole four paintings worth $164 million from a Zurich museum, shocking the art world. The heist was the biggest art robbery in the history of Switzerland.

Oil paintings by Cezanne, Degas, van Gogh and Monet were stolen in broad daylight on Sunday from the private Buehrle Collection in the second dramatic art theft in the area within days. "This is the biggest robbery in Switzerland in an art museum and one of the biggest art robberies in Europe," said Peter Rueegger, head of investigations for the Zurich police.

Three men in dark clothing and masks, one of whom spoke German with a Slavic accent, forced their way into the museum and made off with the paintings in a white car, police said. A reward of 100,000 Swiss francs was on offer for information leading to their arrest, police added. Rueegger said the Zurich robbery could be compared to the theft of Norwegian artist Edvard Munch's "The Scream" from the Munch Museum in Oslo nearly four years ago. That work was recovered in 2006.

The robbery in Switzerland's financial capital follows the theft of two Picasso paintings -- Tete de Cheval, from 1962, and Verre et Pichet, from 1944 -- from a nearby cultural centre last week. They said it was possible a white vehicle had also played a role in this incident and that they would investigate whether the two thefts were connected. The four paintings stolen were Cezanne's "The Boy in the Red Vest" from 1890, Degas' "Viscount Lepic" and His Daughters from 1871, Monet's "Poppies Near Vetheuil" from 1880 and Van Gogh's "Blossoming Chestnut Branches" from 1890, police said.

Pictured is Monet's "Poppies Near Vetheuil." We are really stunned at the audacity and frequency of these major art thefts. What is going on, anyway? The paintings are so famous that they could only be resold to a private collector who would never show the art to anyone else. We think security at major museums needs to be stepped up in Europe. These paintings are part of our cultural heritage and need to be preserved in museums so everyone can see them.

More from Writers Write