Art theft

theft

Salzburg News                       Friday, 9 January 2009

 

Naked woman in red stolen

 

Art thieves. Three perpetrators cut a picture by Eva Kaiser from Salzburg out of the picture frame - during the day and in the display of a gallery.

 

CHRISTIAN RESCH

 

SALZBURG-STADT, VIENNA (SN) It was a somewhat puzzled visitor to the "Galerie Time" who noticed that something was wrong. On Monday afternoon, the woman was looking at the empty picture frame near the panorama windows on Vienna's Wollzeile - the frame that should have contained the painting "Lying Nude" by Salzburg artist Eva Kaiser.

The three men with Eastern European accents who had left the crime scene minutes before had long since disappeared. What is certain is that one of them had cut out the "lying nude" with a blade and hidden it with him. The Vienna police have not yet been able to uncover any more information.

Gallery owner Günther Wachtl reported that two of the suspects had implicated himself and an artist who was present. Meanwhile, the third man must have taken the painting.

The gallery was open and frequented, on Wollzeile within sight of St. Stephen's Cathedral there was a lot of public traffic. The fugitives, who could have been observed by anyone from the street, obviously took a considerable risk in the theft. Nevertheless, no witnesses to the crime have yet turned up.

What is bizarre about the crime is that the unknown persons stole exactly this painting, measuring about 135 by 70 centimetres, and no other. The selling price was "only" 3800 euros. The artist herself cannot explain why criminals would be interested in exactly this - and only this - work of art. "I can only say that the painting is very revealing, almost pornographic," says Eva Kaiser. Recently, she says, a work similar in style but 14 square metres in size was sold to a Russian collector.

The criminologists now have to deal with the question of whether the theft of the "Reclining Nude" was deliberately commissioned - and whether the painting may have been taken abroad. "Something like this was rather unusual in the past," says Anita Gach, a specialist in art theft at the Federal Criminal Police Office. "In recent years, objects have tended to be stolen in Eastern and Southern Europe - from churches, for example. The works then turned up in the West. Where there are buyers with the necessary financial clout".

For Gach, it is not uncommon that paintings are removed from galleries during opening hours. "But I don't think we've ever had a picture cut out of its frame. Art thieves, however, usually know very well what they can sell and what they cannot. "One painting is taken and the other next to it is ignored. For the investigators, it is not always logical what is behind it.

In general, such crimes are comparatively rare in galleries. Most art is stolen from private homes and churches. This is also confirmed by Christian Krieg, investigator at the Landeskriminalamt salzburg. "Modern art, as in the current case, is less interesting for criminals. The artist has to

internationally known". 2008 was a rather quiet year in terms of art theft.

The homepage of the Federal Criminal Police Office contains a list of valuable art objects that have disappeared in recent years: www.bmi.gv.at/fahndung.

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