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Academic Insights for the Thinking World

The criminal enterprise of stealing history

After illegal drugs, illicit arms and human trafficking, art theft is one of the largest criminal enterprises in the world. According to the FBI Art Crime Team (ACT), stolen art is a lucrative billion dollar industry. The team has already made 11,800 recoveries totaling $160 million in losses. From Vincent Van Gogh to Pierre-Auguste Renoir to Pablo Picasso, some of the world’s most famous paintings are somewhere on this earth but are still no where to be found. Interpol reports that a majority of these crimes occur in private homes. Museums and places of worship are also commonly targeted. The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston, Massachusetts alone is missing $500 million worth of valuable pieces that went missing in a heist twenty-five years ago. Discover some of history’s most infamous art heists in this interactive map. Check out Grove Art Online and the Benezit Dictionary of Artists for more information about the artists and their stolen art.

Featured Image: Scheveningen beach in stormy weather by Vincent van Gogh (1853–1890). Public Domain via Wikimedia Commons. (The painting is presently lost following its theft from the Van Gogh Museum in Amsterdam in 2003.)

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