France seeks Interpol help after $125 million art heist
PARIS/MARSEILLE (Reuters) - France has asked Interpol for help in tracking down five paintings stolen in a 100 million euro ($125 million) art heist at a Paris museum, suggesting the artworks have already left the country.
Interpol said Saturday it had alerted its 188 countries member countries about the major theft from the Musee d'Art Moderne in Paris and added the works to its stolen art database.
Museum officials discovered the paintings, which included works by Spanish master Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Amedeo Modigliani, missing Thursday after noticing a smashed window pane.
"The French authorities have made sure that police around the world now have the information they need to assist in locating and eventually recovering these stolen works of art," Interpol's Jean-Michel Louboutin said.
The stolen works are Picasso's "Dove with Green Peas," Matisse's "Pastorale," Georges Braque's "Olive tree near l'Estaque," Modigliani's "Woman on the range" and Fernand Leger's "Still life with candlesticks."
"These extraordinary paintings by these great masters are so recognizable that they will be difficult to sell," he said.
Experts have suggested criminal gangs trying to extort money from the museum or state, or who trade the works in the underworld for drugs or weapons, could be behind the robberies.
Another Picasso was stolen Friday from the home in southern France of an art collector, who was beaten up during a robbery, a police source said Saturday.
The most important work in the robbery was a lithograph representing a woman's face painted by Picasso, while the other works were by less renowned artists, the source said, without identifying the other artists.
A lithograph is an authorized copy of work created by the artist himself or another skilled workman. Depending on print quality or production numbers it can have significant value.
The robbery was another in a series in Marseille since December. Thieves stole about 30 paintings, including a work by Picasso, from a private villa in January. A drawing by French impressionist Edgar Degas was stolen from a museum in December.
According to Art Loss Register, which lists about 170,000 missing pieces, Picassos are the most stolen of all artworks worldwide.
(Editing by Mark Heinrich)
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