Wednesday, January 17, 2007

Museum of the Missing (copy)


On the night of December 15, 2005, a lunar phenomenon was in effect, the full moon sat highest from the Earth causing an illusion it was directly overhead. On this very night, full moon ablaze, three brazen thieves drove their Austin Mini Cooper and red, Mercedes flatbed upon the Henry Moore Foundation lawn. Their target was a two-ton sculpture titled Reclining Figure by Henry Moore.

This was no easy task, considering Reclining Figure, worth $5.2 million dollars, is an eleven-foot-long piece of bronze. According to Museum of the Missing by Simon Houpt, the “very, very audacious theft” still has museum officials shaking their heads. The whole robbery was caught on tape; yet, the thieves, still at-large, may have melted the work for cash.

Although the Moore robbery was extremely organized, most are “spur of the moment” actions. In 1994, The Scream by Edvard Munch was stolen in a smash and grab motion made popular in our American malls. It was soon recovered, only to be stolen again in 2004. As of this book’s 2006 printing, the painting was still missing; however, it has now been recovered.

Over 170,000 pieces of art and antiques are currently registered in the Art Loss Registry. Wow! That gives the average Joe great odds he will see one of these missing works and not even know it.

This is the premise behind author Houpt’s new book. He has collected some of the most stunning oils, pastels, pen & inks, and sculptures missing throughout the world. As the reader thumbs through his “Gallery of Missing Art,” the beauty of the Matisses, Picassos, Monets, and Klimts will stir emotions.

Just how does one lose an art piece other than usual theft? For centuries, many military campaigns took home more than their scars. Napoleon and Hitler, being two of the greatest, um, art collectors, considered their “spoils of war” a right of conquest. One spoil, still missing today, is St. Petersburg’s Amber Room. A whole room looted by the German soldiers in 1941.

Readers will enjoy this colorful book filled with daring thieves and the men that hunt them. Who knows, you might find one of these treasures at the next garage sale.

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