The Art of the Steal Ain’t What it Used to Be

That’s right guys, we are just going to walk in, grab it, and then walk out.
That’s right guys, we are just going to walk in, grab it, and then walk out.

I don’t know about you guys, but when it comes to capers, from swiping the Hope Diamond to cracking a bank vault, I like to envision some complicated, timed to the microsecond, Oceans 11/ Mission Impossible-type scheme. The one where you need 1000 ft of nylon rope, multiple pulleys, cat suits, space mirrors, and a contortionist just to avoid the lasers? What you don’t really expect is to be able to walk into an art gallery, grab a master off the wall, and stroll out.  But that is exactly what happened.

This past July, while parts of the country were battling arson in the form of thousand-acre grass fires, a rather ballsy, albeit snazzily dressed, San Francisco man walked into a gallery, lifted a Picasso drawing worth about $200k, then returned to a waiting cab. Okay, so stolen art is hard to sell, and everything from the Mona Lisa to The Scream has been stolen and eventually recovered, but come on!  Anti-climax!  Theft is way more entertaining in books and movies, just saying. . .

Hat tip: San Francisco Chronicle


  1. Mike Cooper

    Smash-and-grab has always been effective; the New Yorker ran a great [url=]article[/url] on a Balkan jewelry-heist gang that was just that unsophisticated.

    There’s a more interesting question. In the old days, the target was tangible: jewels, bullion, armored-car cash, etc. But now that vast wealth is ephemeral, mere data bits in the aether of electronic banking, how do you make a heist story dramatic?

    Peter Spiegelman’s latest, THICK AS THIEVES, has a plot that turns on … inserting a computer virus into a PC. Via a USB stick. Um, exciting? Asked about this recently, Spiegelman pointed out that the drama came from all the activity leading up to this bit of nerd byplay — and everything that went wrong.

    He’s right, and THICK AS THIEVES is a great story. But I think the challenge remains for all contemporary heist and caper novels.

  2. Christopher Morgan

    You have a point Mike, when I was in Highschool in Dallas, there was an epidemic of people crashing into gas stations with their trucks, throwing a chain around an ATM, then driving off.

    But walking in and lifting something off of the shelf? I mean this guy makes stealing art look like shop-lifting at Wal Mart…

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