Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Scene From a Mall

The Seattle Times reports on a theft of two Picasso etchings from a gallery in the Bellevue Square shopping mall last week:

"The ... art heist took just minutes. The woman distracted the salesperson with a question on the merits of a piece conveniently located at the far end of the gallery. The two men, meanwhile, lifted the Picasso etchings from the wall and strolled out into the airy mall. One of the men reportedly was on his cellphone the entire time. The gallery employee didn't immediately notice the theft. By the time the police were notified, the trio had long since blended into the sea of shoppers ..."

Derek Fincham comments:

"The most likely scenario is that a subsequent purchaser who didn't know about the works' tainted past will end up in a dispute with the gallery or the insurance company if the gallery was able to insure the works. The Seattle piece says 'unscrupulous art collectors have few qualms about purchasing stolen pieces for their private collections.' I think that may be over-stating the case a bit. In most situations the ultimate litigant is a buyer who was unaware a work had been stolen. This is why buyers should always consult organizations like the Art Loss Register before every significant purchase, and provenance should be thoroughly researched."