Angelique Chrisafis in Paris guardian.co.uk, Tuesday 9 June 2009 21.08 BST larger | smaller Article historyA Picasso sketchbook worth more than €8m (£6.9m) has been stolen from a Paris museum dedicated to the artist, where it is believed to have been kept in an unlocked cabinet.
Detectives began an investigation after the notebook, containing 32 drawings by the Spanish artist, was reported missing today from the Picasso museum in the Marais district. It is thought to have been taken between Monday night and morning. The red sketchbook of pencil drawings is dated between 1917 and 1924 and contains drawings from Barcelona, Paris and Picasso’s travels in France. It is believed to have been on display on the first floor in an unlocked exhibition case without an alarm.
The museum is staging a vast temporary installation that takes up much exhibition space, which could have made it easier for the theft to take place out of sight of guards. French national museums are normally closed on Tuesday but the museum was open today for local residents of to attend a special viewing by invitation only.
The theft is the latest in a line of Picasso heists in France in recent decades.
Picasso is the most stolen artist in the world because of his prolific output, recognisable signature and valuable works. There are more than 500 missing Picassos on the London-based Art Loss Register of stolen art.
The Picasso museum houses the world’s largest collection of his work, ranging from paintings and ceramics to sketchbooks, handed to the French state by relatives in lieu of taxes after his death. The museum has about 1,500 Picasso drawings, many in sketchbooks.
Two years ago, two Picasso paintings, together worth €50m, were stolen from the Paris home of the artist’s granddaughter, Diana Widmaier.
The works, Maya and the Doll and Portrait of Jacqueline disappeared mysteriously at night but there was no sign of a break-in.Twelve Picasso paintings valued at around $17m dollars, were stolen from the French Riviera villa of another of his grandchildren, Marina Picasso, in 1989.
Several other Picasso paintings have been stolen from galleries across the world including one of France’s largest ever art robberies in 1976, when 118 works were stolen from a museum in the southern city of Avignon. In 1997, a gunman walked into a central London art gallery, ripped Picasso’s Tete de Femme, worth more than $1m, from the wall and fled in a taxi. The work was later recovered.