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Is Art being Stolen to Order?

In the week that was the Art World wishes it was the week that wasn't, as it seems that Art theft has become the norm. Firstly thieves in hoodies have taken prints by the famous faceless graffiti artist Banksy and worse it would seem they have been stolen to order. Secondly the conviction of Nima Mazhari for stealing work by Ghitta Caiserman-Roth worth $100,000. And finally some good news. A work by Delacroix stolen some two years ago from a gallery in Milwauke has been returned, by a man who says he found it in the trash!

As works become more popular and expensive thieves who previously would have thought a Mondrian was a new alco-pop are unfortunately starting to take an interest in some of the more popular works of art available today. The hype of the anonymous Banksy have clearly increased visibility of his works to such an extent that an exhibition of his work has been closed. Stuart Hobday, Director said "It's a real shame that this exhibition is not going ahead, but the risk of the art being stolen was fairly high and we understand the concern raised by the owner of the works."

Because Banksy's works are graffiti they are often easier to steal than traditional works, because of their public nature. Last year a work was cut from a section of wall in Paddington and later auctioned on eBay for £20,000. Murals were also ruined in Whitechapel last month when thieves tried to chisel the works from the wall.

Mary Jane Ansell a figurative painter based a few doors away on the North Laines has said; "Yes, the Artrepublic is very close to my studio, but I don't know anyone involved: - honest!" She then continues to say that. Banksy is a hugely popular artist locally and obviously his work is becoming ever more attractive to investors and the public alike so no doubt there will be a way to move them on easily, certainly I wouldn't be surprised if they were stolen to order.

As any buyer will clearly be aware that the works are genuine the question must be why such a viable market is available for these works. Whilst the works may not actually be being sold on eBay there is clearly a market for sale and even more importantly re-sale of such "known to be stolen" works. This is important because if such a market did not exist works would not be stolen in the first place.

Now that the Banksy show has been canceled at Norwich the question is now being asked as to whether the publics' access to such works will now be compromised. Of course these works will be seen again in public but the necessary security barriers will surely damage the viewers' experience. Further problems will also arise as city underwriters re-assess the already punitive insurance premiums for such shows.

Mary Jane concludes though by mentioning that in a way it is tremendously encouraging for new artists that their work could in the future take on the iconoclastic popularity of famous film stars. The fashionable cache of Banksy's work has been increased by the purchase of his works by such celebrities as Angelina Jolie, Brad Pitt and Jude Law.

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