The Naked City May 20 2010
ART APPRECIATION
Five old masters disappear without a trace.

There’s so much priceless art in Paris it’s a virtual smorgasbord for art lovers—and it’s all you can eat for art thieves, as well. Last night a group of sophisticated robbers proved that when they broke into the Paris Museum of Modern Art, helped themselves to a Picasso, a Matisse, and a Légere, had a side of Braque and topped the heap off with a Modigliani and some bleu cheese dressing before disappearing without a trace. The stolen art was initially said to be worth a whopping €500m, or about 600 million dollars, which would have made the heist the largest in history. Later, museum authorities revised their figure to 150 million dollars, which is quite a write-down. We can hear the conversation: “Oh, we thought they stole the other Braque. That one’s priceless. The one they actually took is the one we use for darts.”

Of course, the fascinating bit about these art thefts is that they are strictly pre-order—which is to say, they are financed by wealthy individuals who have the capacity to pay for the pieces, store them indefinitely, or perhaps even display them in their homes with no fear of exposure to 
authorities. The black market for stolen art is robust, to say the least, and for thieves the jobs are irresistible because it’s physically impossible to steal 500 (or 150) million in actual cash. At least not without the starting offensive line of the Philadelphia Eagles to help you carry it. Even if the sale value for stolen art is a fraction of its estimated value, it’s still probably impossible to physically steal, say, 60 million dollars—or even 10 million.
 
Enticed by such rewards, and outfitted by rich backers who can finance purchases of the latest in security-thwarting gear, it’s very possible no protective technology can prevent these kinds of thefts. French police made a statement earlier today in which they revealed that they have a security recording of one thief entering the museum through a window, but otherwise they seem to be sans indices—i.e. clueless.

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History Rewind
The headlines that mattered yesteryear.
July 24
1915—Ship Capsizes on Lake Michigan
During an outing arranged by Western Electric Co. for its employees and their families, the passenger ship Eastland capsizes in Lake Michigan due to unequal weight distribution. 844 people die, including all the members of 22 different families.
1980—Peter Sellers Dies
British movie star Peter Sellers, whose roles in Dr. Strangelove, Being There and the Pink Panther films established him as the greatest comedic actor of his generation, dies of a heart attack at age fifty-four.
July 23
1984—Miss America Resigns
Vanessa Williams, who had been crowned Miss America and was the first African American woman to win the prize, resigns her title after Penthouse magazine purchases and slates for publication a series of lesbian-themed nudes Williams had posed for when she was younger. After resigning she files a $500 million lawsuit against Penthouse publisher Bob Guccione but later drops the suit.
July 22
1992—Cocaine Baron Escapes Prison
Pablo Emilio Escobar Gaviria, imprisoned leader of the Medellin drug cartel, escapes from a posh Colombian jail known as La Catedral after he learns authorities intend to move him to a real prison. His taste of freedom doesn't last—he's killed in a shootout a year-and-a-half later.
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