June 14, 2006

Stealing Art

Posted in criminal law at 5:54 am by thelawthoughts

This question has been bugging me for ages, and I wonder if anybody might like to give me an answer if you have one.

Why would anybody steal fine art? Surely it is not saleable, unless people are willing to pay a small fortune to house a painting they can't show anybody. Why do they do it? 



  1. Dash Brannigan said,

    Usually with fine art the crooks would have a buyer lined up. I mean everybody knows that you don’t go to steal a Monet without all your ducks in a row.

    However, the act of stealing fine art actually has a buyer built in. How much would a museum pay to get it back?

    The thing I find interesting, is that if you pruchase a peice of stolen art to have in your rather large home the price is purely reflective of your emotional value for that peice. Where as the prices that a museum would pay would also reflect the discounted cash flows of attendance to see that painting.

    PS I think it’s Tyler Cohen who is the major art economist. Great blog too, marginal revolution. Might have something there.

  2. See this is the really interesting point – I mean, I know someone must be in line to buy, but why would somebody do that? I understand the argument about the emotional value, but that must be so high as to overcome the fact that you need to hide it in the garage and can only enjoy it on your own. I tend to think of art as something inherently geared to sharing, which is why I can’t understand.

    I don’t know about the museum buyer argument, wouldn’t the trade off of contacting the museum be going public with who you are? This of course leads to inevitable criminal sanctions.

    I know people do buy these paintings to put behind their bar, but for the prices I imagine they are paying, that is a big call.

  3. Dash Brannigan said,

    If you have more money than sense I would imagine owning a one of a kind master peice that ONLY you have and can enjoy would be a real buzz.

    By the museum i mean it would be much like a ransom. “Give us 5 mil or the Van Gough gets it”. Then they could send like the ear to them in the mail to show that they are serious… well not the ear of a Van Gough anyway.

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