Museum: Stolen masterpieces not insured

December 23, 2007 5:27:35 AM PST
It was almost too easy. Thieves, who broke into one of Latin America's most prestigious art museums and stole a Picasso worth $50 million. were barely hampered by a lax security system protecting an art collection that's prized at over $1billion. Officials of the São Paulo Museum of Art - also known as MASP - today confessed that there were no alarm systems in place, and no infrared sensors in the cameras to help them identify the criminals who stole two masterpieces, including the Picasso. A red-faced spokesman for MASP also admitted that none of the museum's 8,000 works were insured, including the two that were stolen.

This latest admission contradicts earlier police reports, which stated that the museum's alarm system failed to go off and alert the police of the crime.

On Thursday, around 5 a.m., three brazen thieves forced open MASP's main entrance by simply using a hydraulic jack and a crowbar. In just three minutes, they stole two of the museum's most important works - Picasso's portrait of Suzanne Bloch, and Portinari's "The Coffee Worker," valued at a total of $55.5 million.

Apparently, the cash-strapped institution could not afford an effective security system, relying only on watch guards and cameras to keep an eye on the valuable collection.

The president of the museum, Julio Neves, said they would look into getting a more robust security structure.

On Friday, reports surfaced that police were informed of an earlier attempted break-in just three days before the theft.

Last Monday, thieves tried to force their way into the museum by using a blow torch. The incident was not officially reported at the time, and local police were only told of it after Thursday's theft. Another attempt to break into the museum had occurred in October this year, but the prowlers fled after being spotted.

MASP is not unique in this criminal phenomenon. In 2004, armed robbers managed to steal Edvard Munch's iconic work of art, "The Scream," from the Munch Museum in Norway, in broad daylight. The painting was later recovered and three men were jailed for their roles in the heist.

It was almost too easy. Thieves, who broke into one of Latin America's most prestigious art museums and stole a Picasso worth $50 million. were barely hampered by a lax security system protecting an art collection that's prized at over $1billion.

Officials of the São Paulo Museum of Art - also known as MASP - today confessed that there were no alarm systems in place, and no infrared sensors in the cameras to help them identify the criminals who stole two masterpieces, including the Picasso. A red-faced spokesman for MASP also admitted that none of the museum's 8,000 works were insured, including the two that were stolen.

This latest admission contradicts earlier police reports, which stated that the museum's alarm system failed to go off and alert the police of the crime.

On Thursday, around 5 a.m., three brazen thieves forced open MASP's main entrance by simply using a hydraulic jack and a crowbar. In just three minutes, they stole two of the museum's most important works - Picasso's portrait of Suzanne Bloch, and Portinari's "The Coffee Worker," valued at a total of $55.5 million.

Apparently, the cash-strapped institution could not afford an effective security system, relying only on watch guards and cameras to keep an eye on the valuable collection.

The president of the museum, Julio Neves, said they would look into getting a more robust security structure.

On Friday, reports surfaced that police were informed of an earlier attempted break-in just three days before the theft.

Last Monday, thieves tried to force their way into the museum by using a blow torch. The incident was not officially reported at the time, and local police were only told of it after Thursday's theft. Another attempt to break into the museum had occurred in October this year, but the prowlers fled after being spotted.

MASP is not unique in this criminal phenomenon. In 2004, armed robbers managed to steal Edvard Munch's iconic work of art, "The Scream," from the Munch Museum in Norway, in broad daylight. The painting was later recovered and three men were jailed for their roles in the heist.


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