Have art thieves gotten bolder? Last summer's broad-daylight heist of Edvard Munch's The Scream from the Munch Museum, in Oslo, Norway, was the latest in a series of brazen thefts of high-profile artworks. And according to Interpol, trade in stolen cultural property now makes up one of the world's most lucrative black markets, after dealing in illicit arms and drugs. Operating in the spirit of its "Most Wanted" posters, the FBI—which has just assembled a new task force on art theft —posts pictures of stolen items on its Web site. Here are some of the more notable robberies of the past two decades, ranked according to the U.S. dollar value of the stolen goods.
1. Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, Boston, Massachusetts (1990). Disguised as Boston cops responding to a (fake) disturbance call, two burglars handcuffed security guards to handrails to pull off the biggest art heist in U.S. history. With an estimated value of $300 million, the thieves' take included works by Rembrandt, Manet, and Vermeer.
2. Drumlanrig Castle, Thornhill, Scotland (2003). Two thieves posing as tourists overpowered their student guide at the Duke of Buccleuch's castle and lifted Leonardo da Vinci's Madonna With the Yardwinder, worth more than $150 million. The bandits opened a window, slid down the castle wall, told two New Zealand tourists outside that they were policemen practicing a drill, and made off in a beat-up VW.