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Dutch art heist 'a nightmare for any museum director' (+video)

Seven paintings – including works by Picasso, Monet, and Matisse – were stolen from the Kunsthal Rotterdam museum early Tuesday morning in a Dutch art heist that could be worth tens of millions of dollars.

Thieves broke into a Rotterdam museum in the Netherlands on Tuesday and walked off with works from the likes of Picasso, Monet, Gauguin and Matisse potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars.
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Seven highly valuable paintings by artists like Matisse and Picasso were stolen last night from the Kunsthal Rotterdam in The Netherlands in what the museum director called "a nightmare."

The stolen works – by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse, Paul Gauguin, Meyer de Haan, Lucian Freud, and two by Claude Monet – were part of an exhibition called Avant-Gardes, a selection of 150 works from the Triton Foundation Collection. The collection is a private one, assembled by wealthy Dutch entrepreneur Willem Cordia and his wife, Marijke.

In a press conference this afternoon, Director Emily Ansenk of Kunsthal Rotterdam said she was “shocked” by the theft, which would have been “a nightmare for any museum director.” The museum refused to name the value of the collected works, but estimates have been made from 10 million to several tens of millions of dollars.

Ms. Ansenk called the museum's security “state-of-the-art,” although Willem van Hassel, chairman at the Kunsthal, admitted that there were no guards present. The museum and its insurer had knowingly chosen “technological security,” local media reported Mr. Van Hassel as saying. This includes security camera images that the police are now investigating.

The size of the theft – seven paintings – is remarkable, says Ton Cremers, a consultant on museum security (though not for Kunsthal Rotterdam) who spent all day at the crime scene. Mr. Cremers, who founded Museum Security Network, a website on “cultural property protection,” points out that the paintings were easily seen from outside through the windows – maybe too easily. “You want works of such value in the heart of your building, in a separate space,” Cremers said.

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