What Are the Biggest Art Heists in History?

Art|Art History

Art heists have been a beloved topic in fiction, from iconic films like The Thomas Crown Affair to more recent works like The Monuments Men and Ocean’s 8. But while the movies may be fun to watch, the real-life art heists that inspired them are far less enjoyable. Here’s a look at some of the biggest art thefts in history.

The Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum Heist – 1990

This is one of the most well-known art heists of all time, and it remains unsolved to this day. In March 1990, two men posing as police officers entered the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston and stole 13 works of art valued at over $500 million.

Among the stolen pieces were works by Rembrandt, Vermeer, Manet, and Degas. Despite a $10 million reward for information leading to the recovery of these pieces, they have yet to be found.

The Van Gogh Museum Theft – 2002

In December 2002, two thieves broke into Amsterdam’s Van Gogh Museum and made off with two famous paintings by Vincent van Gogh: “View of the Sea at Scheveningen” and “The Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.” The paintings were recovered just over a week later after an anonymous tip alerted police to their location.

The Kunsthal Heist – 2012

In October 2012, seven paintings worth €25 million were stolen from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal museum in what would become one of Europe’s largest art thefts. Paintings by Picasso, Matisse, Monet and Lucian Freud were among those taken during the robbery. Romanian gang members were later arrested for their involvement in this daring heist.


These are just three examples of some of the biggest art heists that have taken place over the past few decades. Unfortunately, many more remain unsolved – proving that crime really does pay when it comes to stealing priceless works of art.