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The art world is an exclusive and lucrative industry, with acclaimed pieces serving as both valuable cultural archives and fruitful monetary investments. With such intrinsic worth, and intense appeal, art heists, and intent to resell pieces on the black market for billions, are more common than we’d like to admit.
Though most museums tend to invest in and boast about their sealed security to protect their high-profile art, many museums, exhibitions, and galleries can fall victim to art theft. Pieces attached to renowned artist names like Pablo Picasso and Piet Mondrian have an especially high and constantly rising value and, therefore, unfortunately, attach a target to the museum or collection that possesses them. Many pieces can be extremely difficult to relocate and recover yet there is still hope, almost a decade after a large Athenian art heist, Greek police recovered stolen Picasso and Mondrian paintings from the National Gallery in Athens in 2012.
In addition to the two paintings that were rediscovered earlier this week - Picasso’s Head of a Woman and Mondrian’s Landscape with a Mill - a suspect of the museum heist was finally identified and arrested. A 49-year-old construction worker and self-proclaimed avid “ArtFreak,” as his operating Twitter handle and pseudonym denotes, was arrested after speaking to officers and the investigating magistrate on Thursday, boasting his avid interest in art. The suspect made online comments leading to an untactful digital footprint which was leaked and discovered over Greek social media platforms and later confirmed by the suspect’s own lawyer. In addition to the discovery of this evidence, the suspect, whose name and identity have not yet been released, admitted and recounted his solo art heist. He recalls his 2012 three painting theft, one of which is presumably still not located, from the National Gallery in Athens, and confesses his genuine regret and remorse for his actions.
Immediately following his confession, the arrested suspect was led to a ravine in Porto Rafti, east of Athens, to return the briefcase containing the Picasso and Mondrian works. These precious works will be securely transported and returned to the recently reopened National Gallery museum which underwent nine years of intense renovation as a commemoration of the 200th anniversary of the Greek War of Independence in Athens. With the museum’s oeuvre now restored and more complete, the celebration can continue.