November 13, 2012 / 3:15 AM / 7 years ago

"Shopping list" thieves steal $2 million South African art

JOHANNESBURG (Reuters) - Three men posing as an art teacher and two students stole paintings worth about $2 million by some of South Africa’s most celebrated artists off the walls of the Pretoria Art Museum in a brazen day-time robbery.

The three paid an entrance fee of just over $1 each on Sunday and asked museum staff to direct them to the six works of art, which happened to be among the most valuable paintings on display.

Workers at the museum in South Africa’s capital said it seemed as if they had a shopping list.

They then produced weapons, tied up a museum worker and took the art works out of the building, a city spokesman said on Monday.

“They exactly knew what they wanted and they were almost certainly commissioned to steal these paintings,” said Pieter de Necker, a spokesman for the city.

The stolen works were: “Cat and Petunias” from Maggie Laubser, Hugo Naudé’s “Hottentot Chief”, “Eland and Bird” from J.H. Pierneef, Gerard Sekoto’s “Street Scene” and “Fishing Boats” from Irma Stern.

They left behind one painting by Stern called “Two Malay Musicians”, valued at about 12 million rand ($1.4 million), because they could not fit it into their getaway vehicle in time with security guards closing in.

Reporting by Jon Herskovitz

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