Three men managed to remove a valuable painting by French impressionist Pierre Auguste Renoir from its frame and leave a Vienna auction house with it on Monday night. Bidding on the landscape painting, one of Renoir’s lesser-known works, was scheduled to open Wednesday night. The work has an estimated value of $136,000 to $181,000.
Theft of art and cultural artifacts is a booming business, especially in conflict-prone areas like the Middle East. Dealers and investigators often say the stolen art trade is the world’s third-largest black market after drugs and arms trafficking, though Interpol says it’s impossible to quantify. Last week, Muse reported on a stolen Byzantine-era church mosaic that was recovered and returned to Cyprus. And reports circulated earlier this month that one of the Pablo Picasso masterpieces stolen from the Kunsthal Museum in the Netherlands in 2012 had been found buried under a rock in a Romanian forest. But the painting turned out to be a fake, buried by a performance art troupe from Belgium. That story, and this narrative of the Kunsthal heist, make great reading for art lovers. —L.L.