STOCKHOLM, Jan 7 (Reuters) - A British art sleuth has
recovered a painting by French artist Matisse that was stolen
from a Stockholm museum 25 years ago.
Matisse's "Le Jardin", valued at about 6 million crowns
($916,200), was recovered by Christopher Marinello, an art
recovery specialist at the Art Loss Register in London.
"It is fantastic that the painting has turned up again,"
said Kristin Ek, spokeswoman for the Moderna Museet in
Stockholm. "It was stolen so long ago that really we had almost
given up hope."
The painting was stolen in May, 1987 when a thief smashed
his way into the museum with a sledgehammer during the night.
The theft was reported to both Interpol and the Art Loss
Register (ALR), the world's largest international private
database of stolen, missing and looted artwork.
The painting was recovered after an art dealer in Britain
checked with the ALR's register before selling the Matisse.
"We are happy the painting seems to be okay and in good
condition," Moderna Museet's Ek said. "It was a good start to
the New Year."
Marinello would not give details of how he got hold of the
"No arms were broken and no payments were made," he said,
adding the painting would be returned to the museum through
Sweden's ministry of culture.
The Moderna Museet is still missing a painting by Georges
Braque, after a theft in 1993.
Stolen art is a lucrative industry with $6-7 billion worth
of thefts every year, and the current global economic downturn
has led to a surge in crimes, according to Marinello.
Last year, for example, thieves made off with paintings by
Picasso, Matisse, Monet and other prominent modern artists from
Rotterdam's Kunsthal museum worth tens of millions of dollars.
If thieves cannot collect a ransom from insurers or owners,
the art is sold on the black market, often for a fraction of its
real worth, or even exchanged for drugs or guns.
Of the 360,000 objects on the ALR's database, Marinello said
there were several he particularly wanted to find.
The first is a hoard including paintings by Vermeer, Degas
and Rembrandt worth $300 million stolen from the Isabella
Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston in 1990.
There is a $5 million reward for the paintings.
"Then there is a Rafael stolen by the Nazis in WWII that is
pretty nice," he said.
Marinello, however, will have his work cut out. By his
admission, only 5-10 percent of stolen art is ever recovered.
($1 = 6.5490 Swedish crowns)
(Reporting by Simon Johnson and Mike Collett-White)