4 Shockingly Simple Art Heists That Actually Worked
If Hollywood had a yearbook, art thieves would win best hair every year. On screen, art crimes are portrayed as more sophisticated than brain surgery, with criminals more suave than a Dos Equis commercial. But like most everything else, Hollywood has this completely wrong. While there are plenty of skilled criminals in the world, their services just aren't needed in the art world, where boosting insanely expensive paintings can come down to something as simple as ...
Thief Randomly Steals $4 Million Painting
On February 18, 1997, a young man scaled the walls of the Galleria Ricci Oddi, climbed onto the roof and dropped a fishing line down through a skylight, hoping to snag something of value. What he "caught" was a painting called "Portrait of a Woman" by Gustav Klimt, valued at over $4 million. Prominent scholars refer to the heist as "The most unlikely catch in history since Billy Bob Thornton landed Angelina Jolie" (citation needed).
Man Steals Painting by Replacing It With a Crude Cardboard Copy
In September 2000, authorities at the National Museum of Poland noticed that their prized painting, "Beach in Pourville," by Claude Monet, had gone missing. In its place was a crude copy that, breaking with the traditional style of every famous painter ever, was done on a piece of cardboard. It was a significant drop in quality from the original, which is valued at over $7 million.
Shockingly, this harebrained scheme almost worked, as the unnamed man who took the painting evaded capture for nearly a decade before finally being caught. The stolen painting was still hanging on his wall.
Duo Takes Home a Da Vinci Just for Axing
On August 27, 2003, two men posing as tourists assaulted their tour guide with an axe. While we have several questions, as least five of which are "Why in the hell did you let them bring an axe into a museum?" information on the little details like that are hard to come by. At any rate, the plan worked because, you know, why in the hell wouldn't it? There just aren't that many paintings people are willing to take an axe to the head for. The thieves escaped with Da Vinci's "Madonna of the Yarnwinder" through a back window, only being captured after an investigation that eventually cost taxpayers $1.5 million. That's a high price to pay to defeat a crime committed with just an axe.
Thieves Steal a Fortune Using Fake Mustaches
On March 18, 1990, two men approached the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts, dressed as police officers and sporting fake mustaches. Eager to begin early production of The Town 2: Jesus, Boston, the "officers" informed the guard that there was a warrant out for his arrest, and persuaded him to lure the only other guard on duty to them before locking this security tour de force in the basement.
The two thieves, unimpeded by guards or a reliable security system, proceeded to take 13 paintings worth an estimated $200 million. The whereabouts of the paintings are currently unknown, pending the results of the next installment in Nicolas Cage's beloved National Treasure franchise.