Art For Art Sake



I’m going to give up radio and become an international art thief.

Right now, I’m the Programme Director at Fix Radio in London. The radio station is in Bankside, not far from the Tate Modern. Every lunchtime this week, I’ve been going over there and looking at the art. I’ve started thinking about how hard it would be to steal one of the paintings.

I’ve looked around the back of a lot of them and can’t see wiring or anything that looks like an alarm. It’s also clear that they’re just hanging on the walls without anything securing them. There isn’t always a security person in every gallery, so if I time it right, it wouldn’t be that difficult to just lift a painting off the wall and have it away.

The major problem is getting it out of the building. None of the art is on the ground floor (level 1), the Tate Modern is a former power station, so it’s huge and the combined entrances/exits are a long way from the galleries. There are two security guards posted at each entrance/exit and they seem more interested in me when I’m on my way out than when I’m on my way in.

The rules say you’re not allowed to take in any bag that is, “larger than cabin bag size (55cm x 40cm x 20cm), sports or recreational equipment (musical instruments), large wheelie bags or boxes”, so keeping the painting hidden as I walk out past the guards is the real challenge.

As it’s going to take some time to get it out, it’s important to make sure no one realises it’s missing until I’m long gone, so I’ve chosen a relatively famous painting, one that I can buy a print of, the same size as the original. If no one notices me making the switch, it could take days before anyone realises the original has disappeared. The good news is, I can buy a high quality reproduction from the gift shop in the Turbine Hall on level 0.

The painting I’ve chosen is Picasso’s ‘Weeping Woman’, which is on level 2. I took a picture of it which you can see above. I also took my tape measure in yesterday and got all of the dimensions. The print I’ll need is 608mm x 500mm. Once I’ve bought the replica, I’ll take it to a framers with my photograph and get them to put it in an identical frame 847mm x 739mm x 86mm.

Now I need two accomplices, one to cause a diversion and the other to play the part of a person with a disability. I’ll get a wheelchair adapted so that there’s a compartment behind the seat, just the right size to slot the replica or the original painting in from the top. It’ll just look like a padded seat back to a security guard.

I’ll place the wheelchair, with Accomplice One on board, in front of the ‘Weeping Woman’, put the brake on and wait for Accomplice Two to “accidentally” knock over the awkward metal sculpture in the gallery next door. The people in the small gallery where the Picasso is hanging, and any security guards, will walk through to the other room to see what all the commotion is about. That’s when accomplice number one will get out of the wheelchair and take the ‘Weeping Woman’ off the wall. At the same time, I’ll pull the replica out from behind the seat and will have it hanging on the wall before Accomplice One slots the original into the back of the wheelchair.

Then I’ll just wheel accomplice number one and the painting to the lift, get out at level 1 and wheel both of them past the security guards at the nearest exit.

The really good news is I’m unlikely to get caught. According to Noah Charney, a scholar and author who’s published multiple books on art theft, “We’re very bad at catching art thieves, we have a very low recovery and prosecution rate: Something like 1.5 percent of cases of art theft see the art recovered and the criminal prosecuted.”

The only flaw in my plan to switch careers is, according to Charney in an article published at, fine art theft is relatively easy but selling stolen art is almost impossible. He said, “People assume that they’ll find criminal art collectors when in fact, we have very few historical examples—maybe a dozen to 20 who fit the bill.” Hundreds of art objects are stolen every year, so those are bad odds.

For my new career to take off, I need to find a buyer in advance, so, wanna buy a Picasso?

Craic on!

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3 Responses to “Art For Art Sake”

  1. 1 Fudgefase

    John Crouch – apparently not. It’s been nicked….

  2. 2 John Crouch

    I have six Picassos on my wall. 10x15mm prints which I snagged off the net. A far cheaper and less risky option than the one you propose. Another flaw in your master criminal career is that, having read your piece, the Tate Modern security guards will now be scrupulously searching every wheelchair in sight.

  1. 1 Art Attack | Mack's Craic

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