Chinese Art Heist Shocks Norway | The Secret History of Art | ARTINFO.com
On Saturday, 5 January, 23 rare Chinese artifacts and artworks were
stolen in a daring heist at the Bergens Industrial Arts Museum in
Norway. Once home to one of Europe’s largest collections of Chinese
art, the private collection of a Norwegian general who fought with the
Chinese Imperial Army, the theft has shocked Norway, and is strangely
reminiscent of a pair of heists of Chinese art in Cambridge and Durham, England last year,
as well as another theft, of 53 Chinese artifacts, from the same museum
two years ago—suggesting that the same criminal group may be involved.
The entire theft took just 90 seconds, and can be viewed here.
** Since the raids in Bergen are so similar to those in the UK,
do you believe that the stolen artifacts are headed to China right now?
If so, why?
I would guess that the artifacts are en route to China. There is a
specific niche market for Chinese artifacts, unlike other periods and
styles, like Impressionist painting or Old Masters, which have broad
general appeal. Western collectors of Chinese art are a small,
passionate group, but the greatest value for Chinese art is among the
nouveau riche in China. China is also an unusual case study. Chinese
laws on everything from theft to Intellectual Properties are very
different from those in the West, and therefore stolen or forged
artworks find a market far more easily there than abroad. A certain
type of Chinese collector would be far less shy about purchasing a
knowingly stolen artwork than a Western collector would. Chinese
collectors could purchase stolen Chinese art and still have the pride of
display, perhaps with the rationale that, whether or not the object was
stolen, it should be in China, and therefore the collector was somehow
aiding its liberation. This rationale does not function among Western
collectors, but sometimes can in China.