The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings

The World's Most Expensive Stolen Paintings

2013, Art and Artists  -   6 Comments
Ratings: 8.30/10 from 96 users.

"What is it about art theft we can't resist?" is just one question posed by host and art critic Alastair Sooke in this BBC documentary about some of the most notable high-stakes art robberies on record. Sooke strives to learn more about those who commit art theft, their motivations, and how it is that so few pieces are ever returned to their rightful owners.

Though several cases are discussed, the most focus is placed on a robbery from Boston's Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum over twenty-five years ago. Known as the biggest art crime in history, the theft was carried out by two men posing as police officers. They managed to steal thirteen pieces total, from invaluable masterworks to a dubious piece of ornamentation. To this day no one has ever been caught, nor have any of the stolen works been found. The crime is largely suspected to have been the act of a slick connoisseur a la The Thomas Crown Affair.

When Sooke Interviews a top art crime investigator, however, the notion that eccentric millionaire collectors are behind these crimes is swiftly debunked. Contrary to the romanticized image of the crafty burglar, it is revealed to primarily be career criminals that run the underground business of art theft. As the pieces themselves often exceed any monetary value (therefore negating any potential ransom or re-sale value profit) they are used as currency within the world of organized crime to buy drugs and arms.

Sooke also interviews Miles Connor, a known art thief who claims to know the men who robbed the Gardner Museum. Bragging that he helped plan the heist and blaming its success largely on the stupidity of the museum guard on duty that fateful evening, his description of the event as it really happened also runs counterintuitive to the preconceived notions of art robbery.

In addition to Sooke's narration and standard interviews, the film utilizes a musical score and stylized re-enactments that play on the mischievous spirit of caper movies while simultaneously making the argument that the world of art theft is a far cry from the Hollywood myth.

More great documentaries

6 Comments / User Reviews

  1. Ben

    Presenter seemed extremely naïve and seemed to be confused by the obvious, I found his self righteous attitude painful to watch. Criminals who steal are not likely to be experts or care about the art and will easily be able to sell it on. Deals are easily negotiated, even with the police.

  2. Sarrah

    As Sheena said- the documentary was interesting but the rigidness of the interviewer took away from further insight.

  3. Sheena

    This was an interesting documentary, but would have been so much better if it was led with an openness to learning rather than a rigid and preformed opinion and perspective. The interviews especially had so much lost potential. Instead of asking questions that could have illuminated the piece, the interviewees were boxed in and used to prove points. It was almost like the interviewer was afraid he might see from their perspective.

  4. Julia

    Those paintings belong in a museum. You could really see that that art thief is not penitent, he is so proud of himself. What a selfish person.

    That art panel case though was very interesting.

  5. Doris

    it truly is a shame

  6. ~Oliver B Koslik Esq

    Their all criminal psychopaths ruining life for future generations.
    At least our culture has indoctrinated them into

    identifying themselves, these days...