Ankara’s State Art and Sculpture Museum shaken by theft
Eighteen works of art, including 13 sketches by prominent Turkish painter Hoca Ali Rıza (1858-1930), were stolen from the State Art and Sculpture Museum in Ankara, news agencies reported on Tuesday.
The theft was discovered during routine inventory work at the museum, which houses some of the most important examples of Turkish art. The 18 stolen pieces were reported “missing” in previous inventory counts, the Culture and Tourism Ministry acknowledged on Tuesday.
Police launched an investigation into the missing pieces and discovered that the 13 pieces by Rıza had been replaced by forged copies. The five remaining frames were found to be empty, and the inventory committee has yet to determine which artist or artists those works belonged to, the Anatolia news agency reported on Tuesday.
The museum said the 13 sketches were supreme samples of the work of Rıza and were very important for the history of Turkish art. Rıza’s landscapes of İstanbul and particularly of his native Üsküdar neighborhood from the turn of the 20th century are considered a principal visual archive of the history of the city.
In the meantime, other media reports on Wednesday said the extent of the theft was much bigger than announced on Tuesday, with one inventory staff member from the Culture and Tourism Ministry saying around 500 pieces of art were actually missing. Osman Altıntaş, one of the officials from a six-member team from the ministry, said the count that they have been working on since last year was the first scientific inventory conducted at the museum. “The museum is full of forged copies; there are countless works bearing fake signatures. The security of the museum is questionable,” said Altıntaş. “I’m saddened by the situation at this museum.”