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The overnight theft of five major paintings from the Paris Museum of Modern Art is proving irresistible conversational fodder in the world of online media. Already, it's produced one of the more amusing Washington Post ledes in recent memory: "In a brazen display of stealth, cunning and cool nerves," writes a breathless Edward Cody, "a thief using a sharp cutting tool opened a gated window and snaked into the Paris Museum of Modern Art." But what everyone's really wondering--aside from which movie comparison to pull out of the trunk--is whether the paintings are likely to be recovered: what exactly do you do with over $100 million* worth of world-famous artwork once you've stolen it, anyway?

*Update: Though the original figure mentioned was around $600 million, this estimate has been substanntially revised. The works are now estimated to be worth, according to The New York Times, between $114 million and $127 million.

  • If Not Recovered Now, Be Prepared to Wait Daily Finance's Carrie Coolidge explains the odd world of art recovery: "If the paintings are not found quickly, it could take decades for them to be recovered--if they ever are," she, as many others are also doing, recalls the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum heist of 1990--the paintings have not yet been found.
  • ...Particularly Given the Prominence of the Paintings "Safe to say this is one of the biggest art heists pulled off in recent memory," writes arts and culture journalist Nick Obourn at True/Slant. "The works stolen are landmark paintings that once gone off museum walls go underground quickly ... As several stories have pointed out, these paintings are so well known that no reputable dealer or collector would purchase them if offered."
  • What the Experts Aren't Talking About Pierre Cornette de Saint-Cyr, director of another Paris museum, has berated the thieves for being "imbeciles," saying that the paintings are too famous to sell safely, and should be returned. But Stephen Spruiell of the National Review reminds readers of a "possibility de Sant-Cyr appears to be overlooking: The theft was commissioned by a private collector, and the thieves won't have to worry about selling the paintings."
  • 'More Pink Panther than Ocean's Eleven,' decides The Guardian's Sam Jones, settling the real question of the day. "There appear to have been no deft switches (The Thomas Crown Affair), carefully-choreographed swoops from steel wires (Mission Impossible), or provocative, cat-suited slitherings between laser beams (Entrapment)." The thief--"rather disappointingly"--appears to have just "smashed a pane of glass and climbed in through a window." Jones waits for the full story: "There has, alas, been no word on whether a half-smoked Gauloise and small glass of Ricard were left at the scene to taunt les flics."

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