Why reselling a stolen work of art is hard


    Making money from the theft of a work is very complicated: let’s find out why

    Famous art theft expert Robert Wittmann argues that people who steal works of art are often good thieves but bad sellers.

    Why is reselling a stolen work of art so difficult?

    Let’s understand it together by analyzing the various scenarios.

    Resale of the work in full

    Unlike a jewel that can be divided into parts or merged, by reselling the precious materials of which it is made, a work of art cannot be dismembered and it is not possible to sell its raw materials.

    Resale to the museum with redemption

    It often happens that thieves try to resell the work to the museum from which it was stolen by asking for a ransom or by waiting for the museum to announce a reward for returning the work. However, this occurs very rarely because museums refuse to negotiate with criminals, taking legal risks.

    Redemption of the insurance

    It is not uncommon for thieves to try to redeem the work directly from the insurance company. On the other hand, this tactic does not always work because it depends on the redemption conditions provided by the policy.

    Resale at auction or through a dealer

    Yet another way is represented by the sale through auction houses or dealers, if the work has not yet been reported as stolen. Conversely, the thief will have a hard time finding auction houses or professional dealers who neglect their due diligence as there are several databases of stolen works of art, from the Art Loss Register to the FBI and Interpol, which are easily accessible before proceed with a purchase.

    Black Market

    According to experts, the black market is a last resort for art thieves hoping to make a profit from their theft. However, it is still a risky operation because, not being certified and accompanied by the necessary documentation, it could be mistaken for a fake and therefore ignored or resold at a value that is minimally comparable to the actual one.

    It often happens that thieves steal by gathering some information on the growing market value of works of art, without considering that their value depends on their authenticity and their history, as evidenced by the relevant certificates of authenticity and legal provenance.

    Without these documents, the work of art is essentially unsaleable.

    Among the technological solutions available to support the certification of works of art, we find Art Rights, the first platform to support the management and certification of works of art for the protection of Artists, Collectors, Galleries and sector operators in favor of authenticity .

    Photo Credits: Sky Arts, Photo by Doug Peters

    And you, do you know why reselling stolen works is difficult?


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