Six great works on thieves’ art list

2012-11-12 00:00

ROBBERS who stole six valuable paintings from the Pretoria Art Museum yesterday arrived with a “shopping list” of what they wanted.

The list comprised Irma Stern’s Fishing boats (1931), Gerard Sekoto’s Street scene, Maggie Laubser’s Cat and petunias (1936), J.H. Pierneef’s Eland and bird (1961) — a gouache drawing on paper — and Hugo Naudé’s Hottentot chief.

The sixth was the most valuable, Irma Stern’s Two Malay Musicians, which is worth R12 million. However, the robbers abandoned this painting on the pavement. It was apparently too big for in their getaway vehicle.

Three men each paid the R10 entry fee at the museum at around 11 am yesterday and wandered through the gallery.

Suddenly, one of them pointed a gun at staffer Daywood Khan.

The man had presented himself as a schoolteacher. He was about 60 and spoke English, Khan said.

He said the men pulled out a list and asked where the six paintings on it were. They were very organised, he added.

Art expert and auctioneer Stephan Welz said the stolen Stern is worth about R9 million and the Sekoto about R7 million.

Museum curator Dirk Oegema said afterwards: “We have lost part of our heritage”.

Asked about a rumour that the museum’s CCTV was not working, he declined to comment.

He said the stolen paintings were not the museum’s most valuable items, but formed an important part of the collection. The robbery would be discussed at today’s management meeting, he said.

Welz said well-known artworks are so well documented it would be virtually impossible to sell the stolen works.

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