The Aftermath of a Vincent Van Gogh Art Heist

What happens after a famous painting is stolen?

Vincent van Gogh painting stolen from Netherlands museum Singer Laren
Singer Laren museum Director Evert van Os speaks to the press.
Robin van Lonkhuijsen/ANP/AFP via Getty

What happens after a famous painting is successfully stolen? That’s not a rhetorical question — especially to art-world figures dealing with the aftermath of the recent theft of Vincent van Gogh’s painting The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen. The painting was stolen from the Singer Laren museum in the Netherlands, and it wasn’t the first to be snatched up by thieves. A recent article at The Art Newspaper explored the dozens of van Gogh works that have been stolen in recent years.

At Esquire, Daniel Dumas explored the recent theft and pondered what might come next. While the thieves may have taken advantage of the coronavirus for the timing of their heist, the ongoing pandemic could also limit their options as far as transporting it far from the scene.

With the coronavirus effectively freezing travel and disrupting shipping routes, smuggling the painting over international borders should prove incredibly difficult. Across Europe police are pulling people over simply for going on joyrides and the two-foot-wide painting is affixed to a board making it impossible to roll up.

Dumas speculates that the van Gogh painting was likely stolen with the intention of selling it on the black market, as opposed to being taken by thieves hired by someone specific. The article notes that certain nations have laws that are friendly to those who have stolen objects in their possession. In other words, if someone wealthy and unethical bought a stolen painting, it might still be difficult to get it back depending on where the buyer is based.

Still, plenty of art thieves are ultimately caught — and Dumas writes that, while Vincent van Gogh’s paintings have been frequently stolen, they’ve also been recovered in time. Will the story of The Parsonage Garden at Nuenen have a similar ending? The odds are in its favor.

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