Thieves Steal Fake Paintings

A couple of days ago thieves stole three Edvard Munch paintings from the Hotel Continental in Oslo. But unfortunately for the thieves, all the paintings they stole were fakes. The hotel had the real paintings in a vault. This confirms a pet theory of mine: that most of the time, when you see a famous painting hanging in a museum or gallery, it's a fake. It's simply too risky to hang the priceless originals out in public, either because they could get stolen or damaged. For instance, I'm convinced that the Mona Lisa hanging on display at the Louvre is a fake. Which means that all those tourists who crowd around it are basically wasting their time. They could see a better version of it on a poster in the gift shop. (But having said this I have to admit that when I was in Paris last year I became one of those tourists who trekked through the Louvre just to see the Mona Lisa).


Posted on Fri Aug 05, 2005


Huh... More Munch thefts, even if it wasn't the real thing.. Given that one of the versions* of 'The Scream' got swiped a while back, I wonder if it's a trend..

*(there's apparently a few different ones, go fig.)
Posted by Bobcat  on  Sat Aug 06, 2005  at  01:57 AM
I think you're to pessimistic here. I don't think musea are a hoax!
Posted by Marielle  in  Netherlands  on  Sat Aug 06, 2005  at  05:10 AM
Well Alex, real paintings at least have the 3-d effect, because they have real paint and not just little ink circles. Plus you have to consider that this was a hotel, not a museum. I'm not buying stock in your pet theory.
Posted by Citizen Premier  in  spite of public outcry  on  Sat Aug 06, 2005  at  05:53 PM
Hee hee. Munch.
Posted by Citizen Premier  in  spite of public outcry  on  Sat Aug 06, 2005  at  05:54 PM
Citizen, you're assuming that fake paintings are photo-reproductions. But if you have enough money to own a multi-million dollar painting, then you also have enough money to commission an artist to paint a duplicate.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sat Aug 06, 2005  at  06:44 PM
There comes a point when an item passes the value of priceless and on to worthless - that is the point when something is declared to be so valuable that is becomes invisible to even the owner. Where is the value in an item that even the owner of it is afraid to view it for fear of it becoming damaged or stolen. When it comes to 'priceless' items, I'll stick with the replicas. They are a LOT cheaper and MUCH more enjoyable. When it comes to the point of reproduction being so good where even the 'pros' can't tell difference without extensive study, what difference (besides price) does it REALLY make what you are looking at anyhow...
Posted by Christopher  in  Joplin, Mo  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  05:35 AM
CP, I used to work in a semi-high end retail furnishings store, and we had several copies of famous paintings. The thing with the copies we had, is that they are made with the original texture of the painting. For example, you could see each brush stroke, in 3D, etc.
I'm not an art expert, but I felt they were very good at capturing some of the texture and essence of the originals. So, even to normal consumers, a copy that just isn't flat and boring, is available.
Posted by Winona  in  USA  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  09:30 AM
I seem think believe something similar to Alex. I mean, if they left the paintings out, eventually they'd be ruined. Although, if they're not out, they're not doing anyone any good. Just like Christopher mentioned...It's not worth anything if everyone is looking at fakes.
Posted by Maegan  in  Tampa, FL - USA  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  11:22 AM
Well, I was just saying that the real Mona Lisa, or a professional fake, looks a lot better that a postcard photograph. And I would think that a high-profile museum would rather risk losing the paintings than being exposed as a faker. I'm willing to bet you saw the real Mona Lisa.
Posted by Citizen Premier  in  spite of public outcry  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  03:09 PM
Ah, but have you ever seen the Mona Lisa on display? It can't actually be 'seen', per se. It's hidden behind inch-thick glass that the light glares off of. And the crowds have to maintain a distance of about six feet. So the postcards of it in the gift shop really do provide a better viewing of it than you can get by seeing it hanging in the gallery, whether or not what's hanging in the gallery is real or not.

Anyway, it's long been rumored that the real Mona Lisa was lost to thieves decades ago. Here's a picture that I took of it when I visited the Louvre last year:
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  05:48 PM
I wonder... does it really matter if the one on display is a fake? After all, isn't art about the complete image and the idea expressed within rather than the precise positioning of individual brushstrokes?
Posted by aw  on  Sun Aug 07, 2005  at  06:06 PM
"does it really matter if the one on display is a fake?"

It does to me--it'd technically be fraud wouldn't it? The exhibitors are passing off a fake as the genuine article. I don't want to be misled into thinking something's real if it's not.
Posted by Nigel  on  Mon Aug 08, 2005  at  05:15 AM
Hmmmm... I think the 'pet theory' is not very convincing, since if it were true the three Munchs (among which a version of 'The Scream') that were taken out of a museum in the middle of the day, a year ago, would also have been copies...

And I think it does matter whether you are looking at the original or at a copy. Part of the charm (for me anyway) is also to really seem something that was physically created centuries ago by one of the great and famous painters. That does add something extra to the painting by itself, I think.
Posted by Harm  on  Mon Aug 08, 2005  at  10:12 AM
As an engineer who has worked with architects designing museums, I can tell you they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on environmental controls and UV light control in exhibit spaces to protect the valuable artwork from deterioration. Noone would spend that kind of cash to protect a forgery, no matter how good the forgery.
Posted by WileE  on  Mon Aug 08, 2005  at  03:13 PM
True... though I work as a picture-framer, and you'd be surprised what people will put Museum-quality anti-UV glass on. The stuff is dreadfully expensive, but people have money. By the same course, we framed a Chagall sketch behind bog-standard glass. Of course, pencil doesn't fade much, but still.
Posted by Bobcat  on  Mon Aug 08, 2005  at  10:13 PM
Well, I have seen the originals of numerous famous paintings (at least, I'm convinced they were the originals), and of the ones I was able to see in decent lighting, I'd say no copy does them justice at all. That's why they're masterpieces, not just of design but also of painting technique.

By the way, the ones in museums are usually much better guarded than ones in other locations, such as public buildings or churches.
Posted by Big Gary C in Dallas  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Tue Aug 09, 2005  at  04:46 PM
Close to thirty years ago I was on a package tour in Paris and looked at the Mona Lisa. The tour was running late, so I didn't get all the time I wanted to look at the art but I spent twenty minutes looking at the ML trying to decide if it was really that good or if it was just the hype. And Alex, the case it was in then was very different from the one in your picture, or else my memory is shot. My decision was that it was interesting. Liberty Leading the People was hanging on the wall in the corridor and I got a good look at it. Just as interesting as the ML. Flash photos were forbidden all though the museum in order to preserve the paintings. I think the air was filtered and controled also, different from just air conditioning. If a museum hung a copy for public viewing, that would be fraud. A hotel hanging a copy (hopefully identified as such)is just a sensible precaution. On some detective show some years ago art theft was the subject and it was mentioned that there are lots of people who "own" stolen art just so they can look at it and go one up on their friends.

By the way, I am not the Christopher who wrote earlier. That time on a Sunday morning I am, hopefully, sound asleep.
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Tue Aug 09, 2005  at  09:34 PM
I suppose that as long as the person looking at the fake didn't realize that it was a fake, then they'd have the same experience as they would looking at the original. It would only be when they know that it's a fake that they'd feel cheated.

And I also remember the Mona Lisa being in a different case years ago.
Posted by Accipiter  on  Wed Aug 10, 2005  at  10:36 PM
Maybe they were only exhibiting the fakes because they were worried about the recent Munch thefts in other museums? All the same, I'd rather see the original than a fake no matter how good it is - aren't art fanatics always saying how real art comes from the artist's soul (meh..somethin like that)? Surely a copy wouldn't have that original spark in it that makes it such a great work of art
Posted by Owen  in  a state of enlightenment  on  Thu Aug 11, 2005  at  03:20 AM
According to one BBC source, the Mona lisa in the Lovre is keep under guard to prevent the secret leaking out; Benetah the paint is the message "This Is A Fake" written in modern felt tip pen.

this was done on the six extra Mona Lisaa painted by Leonardo on commission to a time travellr who planned to steal the original and sell the semi-genuine ones to collector, making seven times as much money in order to perfect his time machine. A rival time travellor ruined dthe scheme in Leonardo's studio with the felt tip pen.

reference; Doctor Who, "City Of Death"
Posted by DFStuckey  in  Auckland New Zealand  on  Thu Aug 11, 2005  at  03:52 AM
I wondered when someone was going to ring in that Doctor Who episode. It's a shame most of the earlier ones were lost, I still wonder what happened to the granddaughter and her friend. There are however, several "Mona Lisa"s floating around. I listened to the audio from the little headset I rented and the speaker spoke of, I think, six different Mona Lisas including on in Moscow - which the Russians claim is the original. So, which one would the thieves steal? Benny Hill did a skit on stealing the Mona Lisa and took just the frame. Smart, who'd miss the frame? Imagine having that hanging in your home - This was the frame for the Mona Lisa!
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Thu Aug 11, 2005  at  02:28 PM
Many museums show copies of their important paintings and sculptures as well. The Albertina in Vienna hangs copies of Shiela drawings, the exact same excellent reproductions that can be purchased in their gift shop. In the Kunsthistorical Museum in Vienna the prehistoric statue
Posted by pepe nero  in  Italia  on  Fri Aug 12, 2005  at  01:14 AM
Christopher Cole, when were you in Paris? When I was at the louve in summer 2002 we were allowed to take all the pictures we wanted all over the museum.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Thu Aug 25, 2005  at  06:19 PM
Razela, it was the summer of '82 or maybe '83. I was stationed at Bitburg and took a tour. If I ever get the money I'd like to go back and complete a tour of the Louvre and maybe a couple of other places in Paris. For the rest of the city - forget it!
Posted by Christopher Cole  in  Tucson, AZ  on  Thu Aug 25, 2005  at  07:44 PM
I hear ya Chris. The Louve is about one of the only really interesting things to see in Paris. I had a chance to go for a weekend a few weeks ago while I was staying in London, but chose to travel around the southern UK instead (bath, salisbury, stonehendge, etc). I'm just not that fond of paris, but then again, I could spend many full days exploring the louvre.
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Thu Aug 25, 2005  at  10:51 PM
Rezela, who gives a rats ass where you vacationed and if you like the Louvre...grow up B!
Posted by choco  on  Tue Aug 30, 2005  at  07:10 PM
Ummm, Choco, the idea was that Chris had used the fact that pictures were not allowed in the louvre as a bit of evidence of the paintings being real. I mentioned that when I was there in 2002, taking pictures was allowed in the louvre (thereby possibly giving some evidence that the pictures aren't cared about as much and maybe they are fakes).

Ok, then both me and Chris got a bit off topic, however, it wasn't like we were having a long drawn out discussion about personal things that have nothing to do with the topic. Anyways, even if we WERE, it doesn't give you any right to just come in and be rude about it. Just because you are typing anonymously on the internet doesn
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Aug 30, 2005  at  07:22 PM
Reeezala...the lot lizard...trying to pick up on line over a discussion about the mona... what do you know about art and the mona? Tell us all, tell the truth, you've never even been to paris and i doubt that you've ever been to london. People that travel don't brag about being holed up in london....too silly for words! I'm outta her....
Posted by soapy  on  Tue Aug 30, 2005  at  10:20 PM
??lot lizard?? Am I missing something? And why is this suddenly an attack on me?
Posted by Razela  in  Chicago, IL  on  Tue Aug 30, 2005  at  10:25 PM
I have a fake mona lisa and I love it. It is a lithograph thats been transferred to canvas, then glazed it looks and feels amazing....even the frame is almost identical and the painting is the size of the origional. When guests come over it hangs right behind the tv. they spend more time watching it than is on the tv. even the fine cracks of the origional are very visible. people have told me that if this were hanging in what hangs as the mona in the museum that you would never know the differnce.
Posted by DJN  in  tx  on  Sun Mar 12, 2006  at  05:01 PM
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