AMSTERDAM: Thieves broke into a Rotterdam museum on Tuesday and walked off with works from the likes of Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Matisse potentially worth hundreds of millions.
Police haven’t said how they pulled off the early hours heist, 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 news conference in the museum’s cafe.
She declined to reveal any 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 are automated, and do not use guards on site.
Interpol sent a bulletin alerting member countries to the theft, along with images of the stolen paintings. They include Pablo Picasso’s 1971 Harlequin’s Head; Claude Monet’s 1901 Waterloo Bridge, London and Charing Cross Bridge, London; Henri Matisse’s 1919 Reading Girl in White and Yellow and Paul Gauguin’s 1898 Girl in Front of Open Window.