A valuable Salvador Dali watercolor and ink painting was recently swiped off the wall of a New York City art gallery.
The Associated Press is reporting that the painting, which is valued at around $150,000, was taken from the Madison Avenue Art Gallery on Tuesday, June 19, by a man posing as a customer.
Reports indicate that the man asked a security guard if he could take a photo, then removed the painting as soon as the guard stepped away.
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While surveillance cameras captured the thief, police are now searching for a slim man with a receding hairline who was wearing a black-and-white checked shirt at the time of the theft.
The 1949 painting, called "Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio," was part of the Venus Over Manhattan art gallery's very first exhibition, according to AP.
As the painting is a high priority object and a very rare commodity, experts say that the vast majority of high-end paintings such as this one are eventually recovered because of the amount of attention they attract once they are spotted on the market again.
"Generally speaking, art thieves are fairly good criminals, but they're terrible businessmen," Robert Wittman, an art-security consultant and former investigator for the FBI's national art crime team, told AP. "And the true art is not the stealing, it's the selling," he added.
Art galleries that carry such high-valued pieces can usually be expected to be accompanied to by very elaborate security systems which consist of electronic surveillance, guards on duty and specific protocols. But according to Wittman, when just one of these measures breaks down, theft is more likely to occur.
"At some point, when that person was given access to the painting, the guard was not looking," Wittman said in the interview. "That would be against any kind of protocol."
According to William Jeffett, curator at the Dali Museum in St. Petersburg, Fla., Salvador Dali painted "Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio," when he was creating the backdrop and set designs for a theater production in Madrid.
"It seems to be a design for the poster that they used to promote the theatrical production," Jeffett told AP.
While art theft is one of the more common attempts of thievery, the most notable case occurred on August 21, 1911, when the Mona Lisa was stolen from the Louvre by employee Vincenzo Peruggia.
The former Louvre worker hid inside the museum on Sunday, August 20, knowing that the museum would be closed the following day.
Emerging from his hiding place on Monday morning dressed as an artist, Peruggia made his way to where the painting was displayed and snatched it. He left the Louvre with the Mona Lissa under his smock, passing a guard station which had been left unattended by a guard who had gone to obtain a pail of water.
After keeping the painting hidden in a trunk in his apartment for two years, Peruggia returned to Italy with it. He kept it in his apartment in Florence but grew impatient and was finally caught when he contacted Alfredo Geri, the owner of an art gallery in Florence, Italy.
Geri, after taking the painting for "safekeeping," informed the police, who arrested Peruggia at his hotel
(International Business Times)