After bond investment titan Jeff Gundlach got his art stolen from his Southern California mansion, we spoke with expert art investigator Robert Wittman to determine possible outcomes for the case.Luckily, the most likely one came true — the art was recovered.
But today we learned more about the psychology of art thieves thanks to Guardian contributor Edward Dolnick, who wrote in response to another ill-conceived heist, this time from a museum in Rotterdam, Netherlands:
Basically, art thieves are just plain dumb. Dolnick writes:
Like the mafia dons who learned proper gangster style from Hollywood, they draw their picture of the high-end art world from movies rather than from life. In a penthouse den with mahogany furnishings, they believe, some modern-day Dr No sits contemplating the blank spot above his fireplace that would make the perfect setting for a Picasso. And wouldn’t this unscrupulous billionaire cackle with extra delight at the thought that his new treasure was not only stolen but that no one must ever know its whereabouts?
In reality, nearly all the schemes go bad. Like a dog who finally catches the car he’s been chasing, an art thief ends up with a painting he has no use for. So paintings pass from hand to hand, each thief confident at first that he can do what others could not, and eventually learning better. Paintings end up lost or ruined.
Forbes’ Caleb Melby has also weighed in, noting it is impossible to sell a well-known work of art, since it will be immediately identified:
…these works have been cataloged with the Art Loss Registry. They are known, stolen, entities. No self-respecting collector, gallerist or auction house would ever consider buying them. The burglar can’t just “take them to market.”
Bottom line for art thieves: when expensive art gets stolen, everyone loses.
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