Two etchings by Pablo Picasso were stolen from the Bellevue Square mall last week the Seattle Times reports. This is Bacchic Scene with Minotaur which was taken along with Aquatinte 26 Mai 1968. It seems a woman distracted the store clerks by asking about a work in the back of the gallery while two men casually took the etchings out of the mall. These aren’t masterworks, but their $92,000 estimated value is nothing to sniff at.
The chances these drawings will be returned quickly are probably not good. 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.