Top 6 Art Heists by Value | Most Expensive Art Heists


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Top 6 Art Heists by Value

The world’s art museums are home to precious pieces worth millions of dollars. Most of us are happy to admire the works from a distance, but some opportunists claim these valuable works for themselves. Allow us to share the stories behind some of the biggest art heists in history.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts — $20+ Million

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts

A 1972 art heist at the Montreal Museum of Fine Arts went down like a scene from a Hollywood movie, with three thieves rappelling through a museum skylight and promptly tying up the guards. That gave them time to steal 39 jeweled artifacts and 18 paintings, including works by Rembrandt, Delacroix, and Rubens, and escape on foot. In 2003, experts estimated the stolen works had a value of $20 million, but it’s likely to be much higher today.

The case itself took more twists and turns after the robbery. The thieves attempted to extort money from the museum and even returned some pieces as a sign of good faith. Then, there were rumors that some pieces were fake, including a Rubens that the museum purchased back with its insurance settlement. Today, it’s unclear where the bulk of the works are, and the trail to the people behind Canada’s greatest art heist has gone cold.

Nationalmuseum — $30+ Million

Thieves also got creative when they stole some of the most valuable works from Stockholm’s Nationalmuseum in 2000. They set off car bombs at nearby hotels to distract police before entering the museum. As the thieves were armed with handguns and submachine guns, the guards were powerless to stop them from stealing artworks by Renoir and Rembrandt. They threw nails on the road to halt a police pursuit before making off in a motorboat they’d docked by the museum. Although they only stole three artworks, experts believe they were worth $30 million.

In 2001, the thieves demanded a ransom of several million krona to return the artworks safely. The police held steady and arrested several people connected to the crime just a month later. In 2002, they recovered Renoir’s “The Conversation” during an unrelated drug raid. And in 2005, a member of a Bulgarian drug trafficking syndicate led police to the remaining two paintings.

Private Picasso Collection — $66 Million

Most large art heists impact museums, but in 2007 a private collector lost millions of dollars’ worth of precious paintings. Thieves targeted the Paris home of Diana Widmaier Picasso, who kept many of the paintings her famous grandfather refused to sell. Thieves managed to disable her alarm system and absconded with two large paintings, several drawings, and some smaller works in the middle of the night as Widmaier Picasso slept.

There was no sign of a break-in, so authorities initially suspected an inside job. However, seven months after the heist, police arrested three people with a history of art thefts. They also recovered the two large canvases, “Maya à la Poupée (Maya with Doll)” and “Portrait de Femme, Jacqueline,” and a drawing and returned them to the Picasso family.

“The Scream” — $120 Million

The theft of Edvard Munch’s “The Scream” is one of history’s biggest and cheekiest art heists. When the rest of Oslo was busy celebrating the start of the 1994 Winter Olympics, two thieves broke into the city’s National Museum and stole the iconic artwork. They left a note in its place reading, “Thousand thanks for the poor security.” Three months later, the painting turned up in an Asgardstrand hotel room, and police charged four people with the theft.

Most people don’t realize that Munch created four versions of “The Scream.” That doesn’t seem to have diminished their value, though, with one version selling for $119.9 million at an auction in 2012 — more than any other auctioned artwork in history.

Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum — $500 Million

In 1990, when most of Boston was enjoying their St. Patrick’s Day celebrations, two thieves pulled off what’s regarded as the greatest art heist in history. Dressed as police officers, they claimed to respond to a holiday disturbance at the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum. They easily overpowered the two museum guards and turned off the cameras, leaving them free to steal 13 pieces, including works by Vermeer, Rembrandt, Manet, and Degas. The Vermeer piece, “The Concert,” is the most valuable lost painting on the planet.

Today, no one knows what happened to the works worth an estimated $500 million or the people at the center of this crime. Their identities are also shrouded in mystery, with rumors suggesting infamous crime boss Whitey Bolger, the Boston mafia, or even security guard Rick Abath may have been behind the heist.

“Mona Lisa” — Priceless

While the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist is largely regarded as the greatest art heist in history, it may not be the most valuable. That honor goes to Vincenzo Peruggia, an Italian handyman who stole the “Mona Lisa” from the Louvre in 1911. It’s impossible to say how valuable this priceless painting is, although some guess it’s worth billions.

Peruggia and his friends hid in the French museum and made off with the “Mona Lisa” when it closed. He was double-crossed by a Florentine art dealer when he tried to sell the work. The dealer reported the crime to the director of the Uffizi Galleries, who promptly tipped off the police. Peruggia served a seven-month prison term, and the police returned the “Mona Lisa” to the Louvre.

Find a Better Way To Make Money

These art heists might have eye-watering values, but many of these criminals lost everything, including their freedom, when authorities uncovered their plots. Selling unwanted valuables, such as old jewelry and coins, is a much more reliable way to make money. It may surprise you how much the items cluttering up your drawers are really worth. Americash Jewelry & Coin Buyers appraises items for free and pays cash on the spot, so visiting our Westmont, Illinois, shop with the objects you no longer want or need is a much smarter way to top up your bank balance.

Montreal Museum of Fine Arts by chucka_nc is licensed with CC BY-SA 2.0


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