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Stolen! How, when and why?

Ten-week art history and theory course

Short course

● Fully booked

  • 9 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 16 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 23 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 30 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 6 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 13 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 20 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 27 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 4 December 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 11 December 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
This event has now ended

See upcoming short courses

Leonardo Da Vinci, La Joconde. Portrait de Mona Lisa, 1452-1519.

oil on wood. Height: 0.77 m Length: 0.53 m. Photo (C) RMN-Grand Palais (musée du Louvre) / Michel Urtado.

A distinguished line-up of academics and art-world professionals investigate the rationale behind and impact of the theft of paintings from public institutions, with insight into the world of art crime.

On 21 August 1911, a painting – now considered the ultimate masterpiece – was stolen from the Louvre. For the following week, the museum was closed and suspects brought in for questioning, among them Guillaume Apollinaire and Pablo Picasso. The culprit would not be found – nor the painting returned – for over two years, when it was recovered in December 1913.

The extraordinary case of the Mona Lisa is the starting point for this ten-week art history and theory course, which will analyse the phenomenon of art theft in the twentieth and twenty-first centuries. Would the Mona Lisa be as famous today if she had never been stolen? What impact does a theft have on the value of an artwork – and on the reputation of the institution it was stolen from?

The risk and impact of art theft is now widely considered in the contexts of public collections, museums and institutions. However, while stealing art from private collections could be said to be as old as collecting itself, art thefts from public institutions are a relatively modern phenomenon. Understanding criminal organisations’ complex networks and techniques – how an artwork is stolen, taken hostage, and eventually resold or perhaps returned – is crucial to preventing corruption and reducing the impact of the black market.

Through discussion of a selection of infamous stolen artworks – some priceless treasures never to be recovered – this course will consider the historical development of art theft, the potential rationales behind these crimes, and the anti-crime institutions developed to tackle them. The act of stealing a piece of art is very seldom the work of one individual – several people, groups, institutions and even nations may be involved. Examples from different time periods and contexts will show what theft can reveal about a historical period and the changing reputations of objects and institutions.

This course will consider a number of key questions, including:
• What is the difference between art theft, reappropriation and scandal-seeking?
• Why might it be important to consider the rationale behind the theft of cultural property?
• Who are the key players in world of art crime?
• How can art theft be prevented? How have anti-crime institutions developed over time?
• How sophisticated have art thefts become?
• Does press coverage of a theft have an impact on the value of a stolen artwork? How does the general public perceive the theft, and why?
• Should institutions expose art thefts or keep them secret?
• What impact does digitalisation have on this phenomenon?

This course provides a unique opportunity to learn about masterpieces such as the Nativity by Caravaggio, Jacob de Gheyn III by Rembrandt, The Scream by Munch, Seascape at Scheveningen by Van Gogh and many other iconic works of art which have been targeted by thieves.

The course will be broadly chronological, with individual sessions taught by leading scholars, art-world practitioners and professionals from both the private and public spheres. Each session allows time for questions and a group discussion.

This course runs on consecutive Tuesday evenings from 6.30pm - 8.00pm

● Fully booked

● Cancelled

  • 9 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 16 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 23 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 30 October 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 6 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 13 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 20 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 27 November 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 4 December 2018, 6.30 — 8pm
  • 11 December 2018, 6.30 — 8pm

The Benjamin West Lecture Theatre, Burlington Gardens, Royal Academy of Arts.

6.30–8.00pm each week (registration from 6pm). £420 for full course, £260 for weeks 1–5 OR weeks 6–10. Includes all materials and wine reception at the end of session 5 and session 10.