Home / Arts & Life / German Police Uncover $3 Million Art Heist, Including Baselitz Work

German Police Uncover $3 Million Art Heist, Including Baselitz Work

BERLIN — The boisterous sculptures and strident upside-down paintings of the Neo-Expressionist Georg Baselitz are known the world over. But when more than $3 million worth of works from his personal collection, including some he had created, disappeared from a German storage depot, it took months before anyone noticed.

Prosecutors have arrested three suspects, all of whom worked in the shipping industry. They believe a 39-year-old man from the western city of Düsseldorf used insider knowledge to steal 19 pieces of art owned by Mr. Baselitz from the depot near Munich between June 2015 and March 2016. He then passed the works on to a father and son, who attempted to sell them for “far below” market value, Munich prosectors said in a statement on Tuesday. The three men have not yet provided full statements to police, prosecutors said.

The authorities believe that the father and son, aged 51 and 26, from the city of Leverkusen, just south of Düsseldorf, managed to sell only one piece of art before an insurance company became suspicious and informed police.

“After it was determined that the painting on offer had been stolen, the loss of further paintings quickly came to light,” the statement said.


The German painter Georg Baselitz stands between his work “Statement” (1999), right, and a reproduction of Raphael’s “Sistine Madonna”, left.

Jens Meyer/Associated Press

After what the prosecutors called “intensive investigations in the art scene,” police arrested the 51-year-old man on suspicion of theft in August as he returned from abroad. But Anne Leiding, a spokeswoman for prosecutors in Munich, declined to say when the crime was first discovered.

Police have so far recovered 15 of the 19 pieces of art — worth about $3 million, or 2.5 million euros. The four remaining stolen works are thought to be worth about $155,000. Ms. Leiding said that, in keeping with Mr. Baselitz’s wishes, she could not provide any additional details about the stolen work.

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