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Valuable Picasso Art Pieces Confirmed Stolen from a German Bank

  • Picasso art
April 19, 2016
Gordana Sretenović. Teaching English and writing for a living. Obsessed with Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg. Desires to travel the world and not have a permanent address. Occasionally writes poetry.

Heist alert! Picasso art stolen! A number of artworks, among which are the eleven lithographs by the famous Pablo Picasso, were reported missing from the Portigon AG corporate collection from North Rhine-Westphalia. Portigon AG is a financial services company which came to prominence back in 2012 as a legal successor of WestLB, the Western German state Bank. The eleven missing lithographs belong to the Picasso’s famous Bull series, and among the other stolen art is the painting The house, by the expressionist Gabriele Münter. On Friday, April 15th, 2016, the Portigon AG spokesman in Dusseldorf confirmed the art to be stolen. He stated to the Deutsche Presse-Agentur that the staff has noticed that the vault in which the artworks were stored was opened at unusual hours back in the winter of 2014 and the beginning of 2015.

Picasso art picasso pablo painting new portrait period life cubism woman blue picasso's modern old spanish museum
WestLB was succeeded by Portigon AG after its bankruptcy via bloomberg.com

The Dusseldorf Mystery

According to Der Spiegel, the news magazine which had first reported about the case, the bank filed an official complaint, and the examination of the scene did reveal that the pieces were stolen. However, the German police ceased the investigation in early 2016. The police spokesperson stated that there was no probable cause found against any certain persons and that not enough evidence had been found. The missing Picasso and other art pieces are listed in the stolen art registry. The Portigon collection has been the focus of the public for years. The stolen artwork was stored in the premises of Portigon AG in Dusseldorf, however, even though the access was regulated by the state-of-the-art insurance system, apparently, more people had managed to access the chip which opened the doors of the vault. Deutsche Welle reports that the artworks had occupied the walls of WestLB before they were stored in the vault, but when the state-owned bank went bankrupt, it was legally succeeded by Portigon AG.

Picasso art picasso pablo painting new portrait period life cubism woman blue picasso's modern old spanish museum
Eleven lithographs by Pablo Picasso were reported stolen via theguardian.com

The Ongoing Controversy

The Portigon AG collection was in the public focus back in 2014. Portigon was to sell its valuable collection which included the works of Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, August Macke, and Sigmar Polke, among others. However, the Association of German Art Historians publicly spoke out against the sale, as they feared that the art sales from a state-owned collection could be used as a means of debt repayment. Finally, they came to a mutual agreement and left the multi-million-dollar collection in North Rhine-Westphalia and Portigon agreed to sell the artwork to a state-owned foundation. The stolen collection was estimated to an insurance value of around €1.1 million, which is roughly $1.2 million, however, the market value of these works could go much higher.

Picasso art portrait period life cubism woman blue picasso's modern old spanish museum
Pablo Picasso – The Bull, state VII (Le Taureau) December 26, 1945, Lithograph via moma.org

What’s Next for Stolen Picasso Art?

So, what can we expect to happen next? As we know, this is not the first time that the Picasso art was stolen. We wrote about the now-famous case of the original Picasso painting recovered in an undercover operation in Turkey. We know about the infamous case of the art dealer Yves Bouvier who sold Tête de Femme (1957) and Espagnole à l’eventail (1957) to a Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. When will these eleven lithographs turn up and where? Will they be sold in the black art market or stored somewhere for a while until the heat dies down? If history really is the life’s teacher, especially when it comes to stolen art, these precious Picasso art pieces will eventually be found and returned to their place, but until then, all we can do is wait and trust that the authorities will do their job conscientiously and that the thieves will not in any way damage the invaluable works.

All images are for illustrative purposes only.Featured image: Portigon headquarters in Dusseldorf via artribune.com