Monday, August 23, 2010

Oh no; Van Gogh!

So sad Egypt. So very sad. A treasured Van Gogh painting, estimated at a value of 50 million U.S. Dollars, has been stolen from an art museum in Cairo. A tragic incident for any museum, even more so when you find out what the circumstances surrounding the theft were!

The BBC provides an article detailing the arrest of an Italian couple on Saturday from Cairo Airport, who had aroused the suspicion of the authorities and were believed to be in possession of the painting. It seems however, that Mr. Farouk Hosni, Egypt's very own Minister of Culture, was handed inaccurate information. On Sunday he admitted the folly of his initial statements, and admitted that he was handed "inaccurate information." Although unclear if the couple are still under arrest, it is clear that they are not in possession of the painting. Why was the suspicion aroused? They entered the bathroom, then exited the Museum pronto.

Now were a crime such of this nature to happen in, lets say, Paris, the first question would be where are the surveillance cameras, lets just check those. What time of day did the crime occur, how was our alarm system breached?

The Van Gogh, known as "Poppy Flowers" or as "Vase and Flowers" was stolen in broad daylight on Saturday during the prayers. Even more baffling, (or actually, not surprising if you have lived in Egypt), of the museum's 49 cameras, less than 10 were working on the day of the theft. Miraculously, the infrared sensor on the painting's frame was also broken, and therefore unable to register that the painting had been removed. When asked about the security system, museum staff responded that the "alarm system had been down for a while prior to the theft." Why not replace it? "We'd been looking for the bits and were unsuccessful in finding them." (Someone Slap me now) This museum holds historical artifacts and art from other artists, including Monet. I'm fairly sure that had someone in the museum actually bothered to contact a museum outside of Egypt, they would have been able to find the missing bits for the security system. Far more likely scenario is that someone was sent to find the bits, went to look in one shop, after being unable to find it, just gave up and "hoped all would be well."

So on top of this obvious stupidity, you'd imagine the museum must have had to be crowded for the staff and security not to notice that a Van Gogh has just disappeared. Not just disappeared, it was actually CUT OUT of the frame. Someone was actually able to stand there and cut the painting out... But no, there were a whopping 10 visitors to the museum that day.

Even more interesting is the history surrounding this particular painting. Not only does it date from three years prior to Van Gogh's self-inflicted fatal bullet wound, the same painting was stolen in 1978, from the exact same museum. Learn from your mistakes is not an idiom that holds true in Cairo it seems.

Check out the AFP article on the theft for more info.

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