Reward offered for paintings stolen during hijacking
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Pretoria - A reward of R10 000 is being offered for information regarding artworks stolen during a hijacking in Pretoria east last month.
Pieces from renowned artists such as WH Coetzer, Ignatius Marx, Helene Kapp, Margaret Gradwell, and Gerhard Smit were taken, Lyttelton police spokesperson Captain Dave Miller said.
“The police are requesting any information that can assist them in recovering these paintings taken during a hijacking on April 15. The incident occurred in Pretoria east at around 11.30am.”
Miller said although the vehicle was later recovered, all the artwork had been taken.
“The paintings were en route to a gallery from an auction,” he said.
“A reward of R10 000 has been offered by the affected parties for any information that will lead to the successful recovery of the paintings as well as the arrest of the suspects involved.”
Miller said any person who has information can contact the investigating officer, Deputy Lieutenant-Colonel Johns, on 082 419 9737.
“All information will be treated confidentially,” Miller said.
Private art curator Phillip Oosthuizen said in South Africa, the art theft racket was not as marked by sophistication and connoisseurship as elsewhere.
“Neither the thieves nor the people used by thieves as a laundry for fake or stolen works seem to grasp accurately how the art world works.”
The art market in South Africa was so small that it was difficult to launder stolen works, he said. “So you end up with the slightly contradictory situation where the market is unregulated and hardly policed, and the archives aren’t comprehensive,” he said.
“If (the thieves) don’t have an endgame, it’s going to be very difficult for them, because even if (stolen artworks) pop up in the auction world four or five years later, there’s the art theft register, there’s knowledge, there’s a question about provenance,” said Oosthuizen.
A private investigator from Lynnwood Manor, who cannot be named due to the nature of his work, said he had only received one art work case in his 18 years of service.
“A wealthy couple from Germany were burgled in their Silver Lakes Estate home.
“Thieves made off with valuable goods, including a great work then worth R600 000.”
The artwork was later found in an informal settlement in Mahube, almost dilapidated. “When we asked the criminals what they stole, they said they used it to carry small electronics on it,” he said.
He said the business of investing in art for financial return is a notoriously tricky one. While many people contend – with some justification – that art is not an investment asset class in the same way stocks or bonds are, it is also possible to view the art market as a financial instrument, and trade in art as an investment asset.