Friday, December 21, 2007

In Just 3 Minutes Crooks Steal Picasso in Brazil

Faster than boiling an egg the old fashioned way, brazen burglars in São Paulo with a hydraulic jack and a crowbar, pulled off a stealth caper at the break of dawn ripping off a Picasso artwork while nabbing Brazil's own neo-realist Candido Portinari's (1939) "The Coffee House" or "O Lavrador de Cafe" in two separate rooms. Yep, the stylish modern cement fortress, Museum of Art, is shut tight for a few days in its own Blue Period, as it looks for Picasso's (1904) "The Portrait of Susan Bloch" to repair the damage done to one of the nation's most successful exhibits and its own sterling reputation in Latin America. The thieves were caught only on tape rolling in security cameras while duty guards were busy changing shifts. Monetary value of the two pieces has fluctuated between $55 and $100 million USD in news reports. The insurance company will be the final arbiter of worth, not the museum's curator.

Jumping over a glass partition, they climbed an open concrete staircase leading up into the entrance of the two-story modernist building, which hovers over a large plaza on stilts of steel.

For a short time, they could have been seen from blocks away. But the thieves worked quickly. A few jabs of the crowbar, and they were able to slip a common car jack under the metal security gate. A few more cranks and they squeezed inside.

"It was a professional job; it was something they studied because the paintings were in different rooms," said the lead police investigator, Marcos Gomes de Moura.

"The prices paid for such works would be incalculable, enough to give you vertigo," said curator Miriam Alzuri of the Bellas Artes Museum of Bilbao, Spain. (AP Photos/Sao Paulo Museum of Art)

Such a robbery is making worldwide news at a time when art galleries and collectors are feeling the credit Grinch as investors check their portfolios to make sure a big enough nest egg is still able to afford owning art and the art's value continues to climb. The modern masters of the twentieth century will ascend in value as time marches on. Brazil's São Paulo Museum of Art, founded by the meat mogul Chateaubriand, is counting its lucky stars today as these thieves were picky-picky-picky and did not bother with the renowned Renoir, Raphael or Rembrandt that were right on the way to stealing the other two smallish paintings. That smacks of either already having a particular buyer lined up who is not concerned about provenance or seriously undereducated art thieves.

Picasso is a a biographer's dream as much of his life is marked by his paintings and what was happening at the time. There is so much, the stories are broken into separate books to form a trilogy. John Richardson has the latest paperback version with A Life of Picasso: The Prodigy 1881-1906 and followed up last month with a hardbound book, A Life of Picasso 1917-1932.

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