Picasso thief makes his getaway by hailing a cab

Enjoli Liston
Thursday 07 July 2011 00:00

If Hollywood films are to be believed, art heists require meticulous planning, James Bond-style equipment and elaborate getaways.

But a thief in San Francisco this week made off with a valuable Pablo Picasso drawing by taking it off a gallery wall and escaping in a taxi.

The sketch, entitled Tête de Femme (Head of a Woman), was hanging near the entrance to the Weinstein Gallery, near Union Square, when it was stolen on Tuesday morning.

The work, part of a collection Picasso gave his chauffeur, Maurice Bresnu, is worth around $200,000 (£125,000) but police say it will be difficult for the thief to offload it.

"We're hoping someone in the public might recognise this piece, if they see someone walking around with it or trying to sell it," Albie Esparza, a police spokesman, told the San Francisco Chronicle.

"We don't know if the place was targeted or whether this was a random opportunity that this guy took advantage of."

Police described the suspect as a white man, aged between 32 and 35, who was wearing large sunglasses and loafers without any socks on.

Picasso is the No 1 artist targeted by thieves due to his global fame and distinctive style, according to Christopher Marinello, of the Art Loss Register, a company that locates stolen artworks. He is confident the piece "will be recovered eventually" and believes the thief was probably an opportunist.

"Art crime isn't always a well thought-out endeavour," Mr Marinello told The Independent. "Some thieves just see a work and think 'I can just put this in my bag and get out of here'.

"What they don't realise is that these works are not at all easy to sell on. Once an artwork is on our database – as this one is – we will be searching art markets all over the world for it."

Rowland Weinstein, who is the president of the gallery, said he was shocked by the theft and said the gallery would be reviewing its security procedures. "Most galleries that show this calibre of artwork don't put it on street level," Mr Weinstein said. "It's very upsetting, because my goal is to keep this kind of work accessible to the public and there's always a risk to that."

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