The AP is reporting that a $200,000 reward has been offered for help in recovering 12 works of art stolen on August 23rd in the San Fernando Valley in California.
Two of the works, Peasants by Marc Chagall and Alicia Alanova by Kees van Dongen are pictured here. The works were insured, though that has potential drawbacks for the owners if the works are ever recovered.
Selling these works on the open market or at an auction house any time soon will be very difficult. As I’ve speculated before, there are four potential reasons why thieves may steal well known works of art.
The first, is that a wealthy collector admires the works, and hired a thief. This is often referred to as the Dr. No situation. This seems the least likely possibility, but the one that strikes a chord with the imagination. Writers and journalists frequently cite Dr. No as being responsible for thefts, and I admit it makes for good Bond villains, but there has been little convincing evidence that this is why people are stealing rare objects.
Second, the thief may not have known that the object was so rare as to make its subsequent sale difficult.
Third, the thief may simply be trying to kidnap the object. They could then insure its safe return for a generous reward. This is what the defendants in Glasgow are charged with in the theft of da Vinci’s Madonna with the Yarnwinder.
Finally, perhaps there is a market somewhere for these works. Perhaps it may not be all that difficult to sell these kind of works. This strikes me as the most troubling possibility, as these valuable stolen works will likely be widely-publicized and photographs will be circulated.