Monday, January 9, 2012

Art Theft: Athens UPDATED

Two paintings by Pablo Picasso - "Female Head" which was donated by the artist to the Greek people in recognition for their fight against the Nazis during WWII (pictured at top right) - and Piet Mondrian - "Mill," a 1905 oil painting (pictured at bottom right) - as well as a sketch of St Diego de Alcala by 16th century Italian artist Guglielmo Caccia were stolen from the National Art Gallery in Athens, Greece on Monday morning. According to the Greek newspaper Capital,
"Police said that the Gallery΄s alarm went off at 4:52 a.m. and the security guard, who was inside the building and had not been aware of anything suspicious up to that time, saw a man running out of the building. The guard immediately investigated the facilities and saw that two paintings were missing, and alerted police. An exhibition of masters was currently taking place at the Gallery, which closed to the public on Monday for restoration work. According to a police announcement later, one of the stolen paintings was a 1934 Picasso. Police said the perpetrator entered the building from the back side, breaking in through a mezzanine balcony door that he/they demolished, headed into the interior of the building and removed the two paintings from their frames. Police said the perpetrator attempted to steal a third painting (Mondrian's "Landscape"), but abandoned the effort. Police have taken footage from the museum΄s surveillance cameras for investigation."

Last November, the union that represents security guards at museums and archaeological sites very nearly shut down all Greece's monuments in a dispute with the culture and tourism ministry over overtime pay. The Culture and Tourism Ministry has seen its budget cut by 35% since 2009. Perhaps, the new austerity measures and workers' reactions to the budget cuts contributed to the ineffectiveness of the museum's security system and practices.

More information to come later in the day...