Mu­seum art heist

Geelong Advertiser - - WORLD NEWS -

THIEVES have bro­ken into a Dutch mu­seum and walked off with works by Pi­casso, Monet, Gauguin and Matisse, worth hun­dreds of mil­lions of dol­lars.

Po­lice haven’t said how they pulled off the early-hours heist in Rot­ter­dam on Tues­day, but an ex­pert who tracks stolen art said the rob­bers clearly knew what they were af­ter.

‘‘Those thieves got one hell of a haul,’’ said Chris Marinello, who di­rects the Art Loss Reg­is­ter.

The heist at the Kun­sthal mu­seum is one of the largest in years in The Nether­lands, and is a stun­ning blow for the pri­vate Tri­ton Foun­da­tion col­lec­tion, which was be­ing ex­hib­ited pub­licly as a group for the first time.

‘‘It’s ev­ery mu­seum di­rec­tor’s worst night­mare,’’ said Kun­sthal di­rec­tor Emily Ansenk, who had been in Is­tan­bul on busi­ness but re­turned im­me­di­ately.

News of the theft ‘‘struck like a bomb’’, she said at a press con­fer­ence in the mu­seum’s cafe.

She de­clined to re­veal de­tails of how the thieves got in and out with the paint­ings, or how the mu­seum is pro­tected, other than de­scrib­ing its se­cu­rity as ‘‘state of the art’’ and ‘‘func­tional’’.

Willem van Has­sel, the mu­seum’s chair­man, said its se­cu­rity sys­tems were au­to­mated, and did not use guards on site.

Po­lice ar­rived at the scene five min­utes af­ter an alarm was trig­gered, he said. He de­scribed the mu­seum’s in­sur­ance as ad­e­quate for the ex­hi­bi­tion.

The col­lec­tion was on dis­play as part of cel­e­bra­tions mark­ing the mu­seum’s 20th an­niver­sary.

Paul Gauguin’s 1898 Girl in Front of Open Win­dow.

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