Brushes, Bullets And Bandits: 10 Weird Art Heists

Weird due to the item being stolen and weird due to the manner of the heist. Weird all around. These weird heists or heist attempts are to be savored, laughed about, and why not, put in the category Art heists that couldn’t.

1. The leg lamp loot (2015)

weird art heists: the leg lamp lootLocation: North Tonawanda, N.Y.
Thieves nabbed a replica of the iconic leg lamp from the movie “A Christmas Story” from a storefront where the owner used to have an annual display honoring the classic movie. The guy probably just wanted a quirky, festive decoration for their man cave. The lamp was never recovered which left both the store owner and the customers quite annoyed.

2. The Van Gogh Vanishing Act (2002)

weird art heists: The Van Gogh Vanishing Act

Amsterdam, Netherlands
The valuable paintings were stolen by, wait for it, an Italian-style mob gang. They swiped two priceless Vincent van Gogh paintings, “View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and “Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.” These were later recovered in Naples, Italy, in 2016, as part of a drug deal. They were found in the home of the parents of the chief of the Naples Camorra gang, Raffaele Imperiale. The first painting was in need of minor reconstruction but nothing a talented restaurateur couldn’t do.

3. The nude

weird art heists: the nude

Hertfordshire, England (2005)
The theft of Henry Moore’s sculpture “Reclining Nude” is a notorious art heist that took place in 2005. The bronze sculpture, which is valued at millions of dollars, was stolen from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire. The thieves used a flatbed truck and a crane to remove the sculpture from its plinth, the operation was well-planned and the statue was never seen again. What makes this weird? Well, the statue was worth around £3million at the time and it most likely ended up being sold for scrap, less than £5,000, as that year the price of copper skyrocketed.

4. The Mona Lisa (1911)

The Mona Lisa

Location: Paris, France
In a plot straight out of a mystery novel, Vincenzo Perugia, a former Louvre employee, stole the Mona Lisa. Helping design the case the painting was kept in, he knew exactly what he had to do in order to take the painting out without anyone noticing. He waited overnight in a closet designed for cleaning supplies only to walk straight out of the museum with the painting hidden under his coat. The reason for his theft was simple: he wanted to return the painting to its home country, Italy. He kept it hidden in his apartment for over two years and he was caught when he contacted an Italian art dealer.

5. The traffic stop bust (2009)

The Traffic Stop bust

Location: Geneva, Switzerland
Imagine stealing a Fabergé egg encrusted with diamonds, sapphires and emeralds some four years ago. You sit on it for four years since this piece of art is hard to move quickly, you have to wait and you can either tear it apart and sell each piece individually or risk your hind and sell it as a whole. Or you could do neither because you get stopped by a random routine traffic stop and the cops get their hands on it. The unlucky bastards…

6. The heist to end all heists (2012)

PaintingLocation: Rotterdam, Netherlands 🎨
Thieves stole seven paintings, including works by Picasso, Monet, and Matisse, from the Kunsthal Museum. The heist was dubbed the “art heist of the century,” but the stolen art was later burned in an attempt to destroy evidence. The culprits, a Romanian gang with a taste for fine art apparently, later denied burning the painting when questioned in a court. However, in one of the culprit’s parents’ house they found traces of paint and nails that matched some of the paintings. A bust that went bust.

7. Stealing for the sake of stealing (1994)

weird art heists the scream jpg
Location: Oslo, Norway
Edvard Munch’s iconic painting “The Scream” was stolen from the National Gallery in Oslo. The culprits left a note saying, “Thanks for the poor security,” and the painting was recovered several months later. If you want to go into the nitty gritty of it all, you can watch The Man who Stole the Scream (2023), a fairly decent documentary about the whole lot.

8. Another theft-for-the-sake-of-thefting case (2003)

message after theft
Location: Manchester, England
Three paintings by Van Gogh, Picasso and Gauguin, worth a lot of millions at the time, were swept from under the guards’ noses, even with CCTV cameras and alarms. The following day they were able to recover the paintings from behind a public restroom, all rolled up in a cardboard tube. The note attached said “the intention was NOT to steal, ONLY to highlight the WOEFUL security.” Talk about having way too much time on your hands. And yes, the culprits have not been caught.

9. Abandon all hope (1991)

Abandon all hope

Location: Amsterdam, Netherlands
The scenario was as follows: guy number one hides in the museum until after closing so he could let his buddy come in after nightfall. They’re armed and force the guards – one of them being their accomplice – to disable security. They then walk around the museum like they own the place, basically shopping for art, specifically Van Gogh. The punchline is so, so hilarious: they found the art in an abandoned car near a railway station. The thieves went on foot without the art because the second getaway car got a flat tire and was unable to get to them.

10. The home theft (2012)

The home theft
Stockholm, Sweden
This one is more serious as the thieves broke into a home knowing exactly what they wanted. After they managed to get all three paintings down they were faced with a challenge: how to fit a four-by-three-foot art into a Ford. They couldn’t so decided to make a run for it. The other two paintings were soon discovered near a dumpster.

Recommended reading next: These 8 Weirdest Clouds Are Like An Art In The Sky (Look Up!)

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