This painting by Suzanne Stryker was the third stolen by an unknown thief.
WHAT are the world’s top four criminal enterprises? You might correctly guess drugs, money laundering, weapons, and then get stumped. According to Interpol, the world’s largest police organization, art theft is generally considered third or fourth. They point out that exact figures for art theft worldwide don’t exist, but the FBI estimates that it’s $6 billion a year. To put that into perspective, the total FBI budget for 2007 was approximately $6.04 billion.
There’s something glamorous about stealing beauty, so movies and books are written about it. In real life, the modern museum robbery can remind you of a James Bond movie, like the robbery of the National Gallery in Stockholm in 2000, where the robbers used diversionary explosions, tire-puncture devices, and a getaway boat. The largest art heist in the U.S. happened at the Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990. In a matter of one hour and twenty minutes, two unidentified unarmed men wearing police uniforms removed 12 paintings worth $300 million. The museum is still offering a $5 million reward for the uninsured artwork.
Art crime has even touched Fairfield, Iowa. During my last move, a thief stole a large abstract painting and left everything else. But this was not a one-night stand—there was follow-up. About nine months later, a painting was stolen from one of my art exhibits. Nine months later another painting disappeared from a solo show at Entrée Café Gallery. If there is such a thing as regularity and discipline in the art-theft profession, should we expect the criminals to strike again in another nine months?
My three missing paintings are just a footnote compared to the three Picasso paintings that were stolen around the same time. Valued at almost $60 million, only one of Picasso’s paintings has been recovered. Picasso has had more works of art stolen than any other artist in the world—at least 554! My advice to art thieves is to help Picasso maintain that status and leave the smaller artists like me alone!
People who aren’t interested in art may not find much personal relevance in this story. But I’d like to say something to anyone who does manual labor: I work with my hands; I’m a manual laborer, too. I just don’t break a sweat. One of the stolen paintings took nine months to create. And my boss, even though she’s myself, is very fussy, demanding, and obnoxious.
Since my stolen paintings are such an unusual and personal theft, it brings up many thoughts and questions: who would do such a thing, why would they do it, and where are the paintings?
Should I flatter myself that my stolen paintings are hanging in the robbers’ living room? Or maybe they gave them to their mother or their lover? I want to know, do they like the paintings? Do they go with the couch?
I wonder if my paintings are okay. I want to tell the thieves that, like all fine art, paintings should not be put in direct sunlight or exposed to extreme moisture or temperature changes. God forbid they are hanging in a moldy bathroom, by the shower, in direct sunlight!
It might be easier to steal other things. What does that say about this person? He passes by purses and laptop computers and takes artwork. Who would brazenly steal paintings as large as 16 inches by 20 inches from Entrée Café Gallery, located in the busiest section of the downtown area, right across the street from the Fairfield Post Office?
Why did the robbers steal those particular paintings from my solo art exhibits? Why didn’t they swipe a nearby oil painting of the same size that was priced twice as high? Did they breeze by the more expensive paintings because of personal taste or because of professional incompetence? Did they flunk Art Theft 101? Their fence should be furious.
What is the profile of an art criminal? Is he like in the movies: a charming and sophisticated playboy who’s a connoisseur of fine art and fine women and has a burglar’s mask tucked into his tuxedo?
Many people have paid their hard earned money for my artwork, but no one has ever risked going to jail for five years. The bandits could be considered to be my biggest fan! On the other hand, selling paintings is how I make my living. I feel slapped and deeply complimented thrice, but not so complimented that I don’t want my paintings back.
The media has been helpful in getting the word out. TV and radio stations interviewed me. Numerous papers and websites covered the story, especially after the Associated Press did a piece. The Des Moines Register has an article with photographs of two of the stolen paintings on its website. Other comments, coverage, and color pictures of the stolen goods can be seen at my website, www.paintyoga.com. There you can also view pictures of paintings that the thieves passed over. I am curious if you agree with their choices. Feel free to email me.
I would like to communicate with the robbers: I want you to know that I will drop the charges if the paintings are returned. Please let me know if my paintings are okay. Write me c/o Entrée Café Gallery, 203 West Broadway, Fairfield, Iowa 52556.
Also, if you know people that appreciate my paintings, let’s work together. Let’s go legit; I’ll be generous with commission.
If anyone has any clues about the missing paintings, please call me at 641-472-7767. I am offering a $200 reward for their safe return.
Suzanne B. Stryker has won thirteen awards for her artwork.
She is currently showing her art at Entrée Café and Heartland Real Estate in downtown Fairfield, Iowa, and at Hensley Gallery in Taos, New Mexico. Additionally, in June and July, 2008, she will exhibit new paintings at Central Park Futon Shop in Fairfield.
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