Wednesday, February 13, 2008

the buehrle collection robbery

there was a major art robbery in zurich over the weekend:

paul cezanne, "the boy in the red vest," 1894

edgar degas, "count lepic and his daughters," 1871

claude monet, "poppies near vertheuil," 1880

vincent van gogh, "blossoming chestnut branches," 1890

these four paintings were stolen from the buehrle foundation on sunday. hopefully the police will be able to figure out who did this quickly and get them back, but there is almost no way to guess the motivation behind such a robbery. they can't be sold on any kind of legitimate market; they can be traded for drugs, weapons, etc. or held as ransom for money from the insurance company, the foundation itself, whatever. there is speculation that they were stolen to be traded for a lesser sentence in a totally different crime--how would anyone even know that? whatever the reason, they are now gone and are probably not being stored properly... ironically, the degas has a sort-of companion piece that is sometimes also referred to as "count lepic and his daughters," which was considered lost or stolen for decades:

degas, "place de la concorde," 1876

same guy, same girls only older. i love how there is such a great psychological disconnect between count lepic and his daughters--the borzoi seems as important as the girls. this painting was missing for like forty years and then one day the hermitage just announced that it had been "found" in their collection. it had been confiscated by the russians (in germany) after WWII from a private collection. anyway, it is now a feature of the hermitage's permanent collection.

buehrle (the swiss foundation guy) made his money making weapons and selling them to the third reich; he then purchased some of his paintings from collectors (jews and other nazi-deemed undesirables) fleeing their home countries. the rest of his paintings were purchased immediately following WWII when collectors, still desperate, were looking to unload anything of value (many works at the university of iowa museum of art, among other august institutions, were acquired in a similar manner). this is called "flight art," in contrast to the much more illegal "looted art." however, buehrle did have both in his collection and he rectified the "looted art" problem by paying the families they were stolen from.

hopefully these four works will find their way home soon before they get too damaged.

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