Pretoria Art Museum closed after robbery

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iol news pic Pretoria Art Museum

Independent Newspaper Limited

The Pretoria Art Museum was robbed of paintings worth R15 million by three men. Picture: Thobile Mathonsi

Pretoria - The Pretoria Art Museum was provisionally closed on Monday after an armed robbery in which paintings worth about R17.5 million were stolen.

Mayoral spokesman Pieter de Necker said the museum would re-open on November 20.

“The art museum has taken precautionary steps by removing other valuable pieces until the police have completed their investigation,” he said.

“The city will tighten security at the museum.”

De Necker said five art works were stolen from the museum's permanent collection on Sunday.

“Three men, under the pretence of being students and their art lecturer, asked to view specific pieces. After they were shown the paintings, they then tied up the museum official at gunpoint and took off with six paintings,” he said.

“They left one painting (by) Irma Stern behind. Presumably because it was too big to fit into their (getaway) car.”

The paintings stolen were: Maggie Laubser's Cat and Petunias (1936); Hugo Naude's Hottentot chief; JH Pierneef's Eland and bird (1961); Gerard Sekoto's Street Scene; and Irma Stern's Fishing boats (1931).

National and international art organisations had been notified about the robbery and had been forwarded details of the paintings, said De Necker.

He said the brazen robbery was a wake-up call that security needed to be tightened at museums across South Africa.

“It is unfortunate the CCTV cameras were not working this weekend. A fault was reported on Thursday and has been fixed today,” said De Necker.

“Security at museums should be improved. This incident calls for extra measures to be implemented,” he said.

The Pretoria Art Museum was manned by private security guards. On Sunday, three security officials were protecting the facility, said De Necker.

The Tshwane metro was providing counselling to the gallery's “traumatised” personnel.

The Democratic Alliance said it had repeatedly alerted the metro about the lack of adequate security measures at the Pretoria Art Museum.

Spokesman Johan Welmans said the paintings stolen were irreplaceable.

“I have alerted the Tshwane metro about the lack of commitment towards this institution for a long time. The impression I got is that the Pretoria Art Museum is simply not a priority for the ANC-led Tshwane metro,” he said.

“The DA has been concerned about the management of the museum for a long time. The reported value of R15m lost is irrelevant if one considers that this fine art is irreplaceable,” said Welmans. - Sapa


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