biggest robberies

On the night of 16 October, seven works of art were stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam in Holland. The massive art heist included extremely valuable paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet, and Lucian Freud, among others.

Now Personally, I think everyone has considered robbing a bank or museum at some point in their lives. However I always figured it would require unusual cleverness to pull of such an seemingly impossible theft. Turns out I was totally wrong. Here we will talk about some of the biggest robberies in history, all of which were childishly simple to pull off, heists like:

Fake Mustache Heist at Isabella Gardner, Boston, 1990

biggest robbery everEarly in the night of March 18, 1990 fake police officers with ridiculously sized mustaches knocked at the Isabella Gardner Museum in Boston. Their excuse: “We have received notification of irregularities”. The watchmen believed it and a few moments later, the hapless security guards ended up tied down on the ground. Even though this heist seems childishly simplistic, The Boston heist is still the largest art theft in history.  The thieves took at least 300 million worth of paintings and their loot, included “The Concert” by Vermeer, which is the most valuable painting ever stolen, three works by Rembrandt and five drawings by Degas. The thieves called the museum, but there was never any mention of ransom and the thieves were never caught. A reward of $5,000,000 is still offered for information leading to the return of the valuable paintings.

Be right back, just grabbing me a Picasso, Paris, 2010

All it took was some pliers to cut the fence and breaking a window for a single thief to pull of one of the biggest art robberies in history. On May 2010, the Musée d’Art Moderne was robbed of five paintings representing a worth of 100 million. It have included works by Pablo Picasso (L’olivier près d’Estaque) and Henri Matisse (Le pigeon aux petits pois). The alarm was not working – sounds like an inside job – and the watchmen were to late to do anything. Security footage later showed almost 15 minutes footage of the robber, which means the security guards were basically taking a nap. However the Thief of Le pigeon aux petits pois was caught and claims to have thrown the masterpiece in the garbage. The painting is considered lost.

biggest art robbery in history
All that remains: Police officers search for clues as they pack up the frames of the stolen paintings outside the Paris Museum of Modern Art. Source

Play Hide and Seek with Mona Lisa, Paris, 1911

The art theft in 1911 was literally child’s play. A handyman at the Louvre in Paris hid with his two brothers in a broom closet. After closing time they took the Mona Lisa by Leonardo da Vinci out of the list, hid the painting under a jacket and walked out of the building, whistling. No one even noticed a thing until the next day, when a visiting artist asked where the painting was. Everyone assumed the painting was removed from the frame to be photographed as what happened before with other paintings. The painting appeared two years later, when the thief Vincenzo Perugia tried to sell the painting to the Uffizi Museum in Florence. His excuse for the theft, “the painting belongs in Italy.

biggest robberies
This picture shows the transfer of the painting from the Italian Ministry of Public Instruction to France.

James Bond villain caliber heist, Stockholm, 2000

The biggest robbery in history deserves a scene like this!
The biggest robbery in history deserves a scene like this!

Violence, a bomb as a distraction and an escape in a boat. These were the ingredients of the robbery of the National Museum in Stockholm in December 2000. In order to distract the police, the thieves ignited a bomb on the other side of the city. They also scattered nails on the road to make it hard for patrol cars to give chase. In the museum itself one person held guards at gunpoint while two others stole two paintings by Renoir and a self-portrait of Rembrandt. To top of this spectacular heist, the villains escaped in a boat. The value was 23 million euros, but all their efforts were in vain. The thieves were arrested just two weeks later. The paintings themselves were found years later though in a number of different locations.

The monkey Van Gogh robbery, Amsterdam, 2002

strange art robberiesHis name was not for nothing ‘The Monkey’. On the 7th of December 2002 this ballsy thief just went up to the Van Gogh Museum, and climbed through the museum window on an ordinary Saturday morning by climbing a simple ladder. He and his sidekick managed to steal two paintings from the Dutch master with a worth of around 7.5 million euros each. The thieves managed to elude the police for over 2 years – but were eventually arrested and convicted on basis of the DNA the police found in the hats that the men had used as a – no doubt poor- disguise. The paintings themselves were never found. This was not the first time the Van Gogh museum was robbed. In 1991, twenty paintings were stolen with a worth of EUR 500 million, making it the largest robbery in Dutch history. Fortunately in that case the canvases were recovered almost immediately in a stolen car.

Can you please tell me where to find… Oslo, 2004

The thieves came somewhat prepared as they brought a gun, but they somehow forgot where The Scream of Nature and Madonna from Edvard Munch hung. So they asked visitors at gunpoint for directions and left the museum with a booty of 14 million euros and a startled audience in their wake .

There was no ransom and the police later speculated that the thieves wanted to lead the attention of another crime, namely a robbery in which a policeman died. The paintings were found two years later in a van.

A Ton of Bronze, England, 2005

Giant bronze statue loot of a robbery
Could this be the reincarnated version of the Henry Moore statue? This was an easy pick for the biggest robbery in history.

A Bronze statue, weighing over 1,800 pounds was the loot of a bunch of criminals with a truck and a crane. In 2005 they drove right up in the garden of the Henry Moore Foundation, hoisted the gigantic statue of 3.5 by 2 by 2 meters in the truck and drove away. The sculpture, “Reclining Figure” was never found. Some speculate that the sculpture , which was worth at least 4 million,  was shipped abroad, melted down and sold for less than two thousand euros that the rough bronze metal was worth.