Cooking With Art


“Cooking is like love.  It should be entered into with abandon or not at all.” Harriet Van Horne (from Brainyquote)

An art theft in the 1970’s has finally been solved. The story is told by the Los Angeles Times of the recent discovery of two paintings stolen from a private residence in London. The thieves disguising themselves as a policeman and an alarm engineer made off with the paintings. However, these wily thieves apparently did not think through the rest of their plan. Once in possession of the priceless paintings, one Gauguin and one Bonnard, they couldn’t figure out what to do with them. Eventually, the paintings were abandoned on a train. That alone should deserve a huge jail sentence! No word in the story on if the thieves were ever caught.

Enter an unsuspecting Italian autoworker looking to add a bit of artistic flare to his home décor, picks up the two paintings at auction for little more than a song. The two paintings hang in his kitchen for years until a relative comments on the resemblance of one painting to another Gauguin painting. That must have been one snazzy kitchen! Anyhow the autoworker does the right thing and reports the paintings.

Several questions come to mind from this story. How did the thieves get away? Who found the paintings on the train? How did they make it to the auction? What kind of auction lets two paintings of this value slip through for about 30 dollars? The whole story sounds pretty fishy. If one were a conspiracy type, it wouldn’t take much to wonder if perhaps this whole thing was staged for insurance money or something similar. No word on whether the original owners (now dead) made a claim. Or this story could be simply two more cunningly stupid art thieves.

Never the less the story is quite intriguing. A savvy kitchen decorator with an eye for art picks up two priceless paintings for a pittance. With that kind of art in the kitchen, no telling what gastronomical delights were being cooked up. Perhaps the now retired autoworker will publish a book of recipes from his kitchen art gallery. Cooking with Art by the retired autoworker would likely sell infinitely better than How to Profit from Stealing Priceless Art by the two hapless thieves

The Plight of the Impudent Thief–UPDATE

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The Plight of the Impudent Thief

A 24 million dollar loss in the art world has been replaced in the news by a one billion dollar find.  Just weeks ago, the art world was lamenting the theft and probable burning of seven works of art from the Kunsthal Museum in Rotterdam.  Now comes a new report of the German find of over 1400 artworks in an apartment owned by an eighty year old man.  The pain of loss is overcome by the joy of the new find.  But the antics of the theft ringleader are quite entertaining.  And insulting.

The Romanian ringleader of the art heist gang first attempted to have his trial moved from Romania to the Netherlands in hopes of a more lenient sentence.    His bargaining chip was the promise to reveal the location of the art in exchange for the trial move.  However, his loving mother may have nixed that plan when in an attempt to save her son, she stated she had burned them in her stove.  The ashes in her stove have been confiscated and are being analyzed.  She, apparently, didn’t have enough sense to get rid of the ashes, too.  Forensic capabilities may have uncovered evidence that proves she did, in fact, burn the art in spite of a latter retraction.

When the trial move was denied, the ringleader’s next trick was to claim the museum had been complicit in the theft to benefit from an insurance claim.  Or perhaps, it was the owner of the collection who was complicit.  “Somebody”, claimed the thief, made the heist possible so “somebody” could get the insurance money.  “Somebody” or “anybody” but the thief is responsible for the thief’s actions.  He is certainly not responsible.  He’s a good boy.  Just ask his mother.

And if that wasn’t enough, he continued to add insult to injury.  When the insurance claim idea was denied, he then threatened to sue the Museum, claiming it was the museum’s fault he stole the works because the museum’s security was not sufficient to prevent his theft.  Essentially saying, “Its your fault I stole from you because you were not strong enough to stop me.”  The sound of heads shaking can be heard.  One wonders who is paying the lawyers to file this claim?

However, the pain of the theft was deeply felt by the art community and compounded by the continued brazenness of the ringleader.  But all is not lost!  The stolen Matisse and Picasso artworks were replaced in the heart of the art community by the newly found Matisse and Picasso artworks.  The German find is many times larger than the Dutch theft. Will the thieving ringleader or his loving mother take credit for the find?  Who cares?  His fifteen minutes are over.  Hope that Romanian prison food is tasty.

Note:  The thief’s name has purposely been withheld in compliance with the fifteen minute rule.

The Dutch Heist and the German Find have been covered extensively by The Guardian.  Read more here and here.

The Scotsman, the BBC, The Claims Journal, CNN, the New Yorker and more have all written about various aspects of the theft and trial.  Follow the links for more on this intriguing story.

Update and a second fifteen minutes:  The Ringleader and one of his accomplices have been sentenced to six years and eight months in prison.  The ringleader’s mother is also soon to stand trial for her role in the possible destruction of the art.  Hopefully, she will see a similar sentence.  Couldn’t happen to a nicer family!  Unfortunately, mom’s trial will add another fifteen minutes of fame to this thieving bunch.


The sentencing has been covered extensively.  For more go to the following links:


The Art Newspaper

The Daily Mail

The Japan News


Reuters News Service

Karma’s Little Spanker


Theft in Point

Ever wonder what art thieves do with stolen priceless art?  Me too.  You can’t buy a home, car or anything tangible with the stolen art.  Its not currency. Why rob a museum when you can rob a bank?  The security is similar.  Most major works stolen can never be displayed anywhere.  They can’t be easily resold or insured.

The New York Times has an article today on the company with the best success rate for recovery of stolen art, Art Loss.  Apparently, some museums and collectors are unable to afford the usually high cost of recovery.  The company’s founder, Julian Radcliffe says recovery can require elaborate and expensive sting operations. He states the agency is not profitable due to the high cost of operation.  Art Loss runs an extensive database of stolen art utilized by multiple law enforcement agencies including the FBI’s art theft division, (read more on the division’s work at the link).

The Guardian newspaper runs a regular feature on art theft and has recently been covering the theft from The Netherlands of major works by Picasso, Monet, Matisse and Gauguin by a Romanian group.  These thieves may have burned the priceless works once they found themselves unable to resell them.

The theft of Munch’s The Scream from Norway generated much publicity and the thieves were soon caught.  The painting was recovered.  How did these thieves think they were going to dispose of the painting?  It’s so well known posters of The Scream are sold at and many other stores.  Evidently, some of these guys are so smart they can thwart sophisticated security but are too dumb to know what to do next.   Unfortunately, not all are so dumb and the The Thomas Crowne Affair is not a true story.


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