Antiquities have been the subject of three major art heists in the last six months. This Febraury, in Athens, the Olympia Museum was victim of a particularly violent theft in which a guard was tied up at gunpoint and exhibition cases smashed with a sledgehammer. In all, 77 artifacts were stolen, mainly bronze and pottery figurines, vases and lamps.
This was the second major heist in that city this year, the Athens National Gallery having had a Mondrian and a Picasso stolen in January. The country’s financial crisis could be a factor in the rise of art and antiquities crime.
Across the pond, two archaeological pieces worth hundreds of thousands of dollars were stolen from the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts at the end of October 2011. The theft has only been made public in recent weeks; the thief and antiquities are still at large.
A Persian bas-relief and a marble head of a man dating from the 1st Century A.D. were taken from the Mediterranean archeological exhibit room during open hours. Substantial rewards have been offered by the insurance company, Tyler & Co., to anyone who can assist in the return of the objects, or identify the suspect, who was caught on video.
Meanwhile, over this last weekend, Anthony Amore, head of security at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston for over 6 years and seasoned investigator, gave a talk about infamous art heists.
Held at the Worcester Art Museum, Amore spoke to a standing room-only crowd of the Worcester museum's robbery in 1972 and the world's biggest unsolved art theft at the Gardner Museum on March 18, 1990.
The crime at the Gardner Museum remains unsolved, but Amore is confident that the ongoing investigation will reap results.
Among the 13 artworks that were stolen from the Gardner, were three works by Rembrandt and five drawings by Impressionist artist Edgar Degas, valued at a half-billion dollars.
According to Amore, this is representative not only of the most significant art heist, but the world's largest property theft.
Records of missing and stolen artwork are maintained by London's Art Loss Register.
(Report: Christine Bolli for ARTFIXdaily)