Art Thefts

Art theft statistics indicate that approximately 50,000 pieces of artwork are stolen each year.  The black market for stolen art is estimated to be in the range of $6 to $8 billion dollars.   The FBI has an art crime team of 20 special agents dedicated to retrieving stolen art.  Why steal art?  The most obvious reason, presumably, is for profit, even though selling purloined art is notoriously difficult.  As one FBI agent put it, “Criminals are better thieves than businessmen.”  But sometimes the motive is not money; it is for the thrill of the trophy (as in the fictional theft of Monet’s San Giorgio Maggiore at Dusk (ca. 1908-1912) from the Metropolitan Museum of art in the 1999 film, The Thomas Crown Affair).   In addition, the mafia is infamous for stealing art for purposes of collateral and negotiation. Parenthetically, while researching this piece, I discovered that there is a scholarly (peer reviewed academic) journal called The Journal of Art Crime.  Who knew?



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