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Sandy Nairne talks about art theft

Most art is stolen by organised crime with connections to an underworld of drugs, prostitution and gun-running.

Sandy Nairne, director of the National Portrait Gallery, London. Photo Tom Miller

In 1994 two paintings by JMW Turner, valued at £24 million, were stolen from a public gallery in Frankfurt while on loan from the Tate in London.

Sandy Nairne (now director of the National Portrait Gallery, London) was then the director of programmes at the Tate and became centrally involved in the pursuit of the pictures and in the negotiation for their return.

Sandy Nairne says most art is stolen by organised crime with connections to an underworld of drugs, prostitution and gun-running. At first, Nairne and the police were led on a wild goose chase by two young extortionists who didn’t have the paintings. The real thieves were captured two years later but it took another four years and payments to a middle man to get the paintings back.

Nairne examines other high-value art thefts, trying to resolve the puzzle of why thieves steal well-known works of art that cannot be sold, even on the black market.

In Art theft and the case of the stolen Turners – the title of his recent book and talk – he relates the complex, cloak-and-dagger story of the theft, the many efforts to regain the artworks and the paintings’ final return in 2002 to public display at the Tate.

Details
Sandy Nairne
Art Gallery of New South Wales
Saturday 6 October 2012, 2pm

Admission is free

Media contact

Susanne Briggs
Tel +61 2 9225 1791
Mob 0412 268 320
susanne.briggs@ag.nsw.gov.au