At 5:09 am, during a security shift change, thieves broke into the Sao Paulo Museum of Art and within three minutes, they made off with a painting by Pablo Picasso and another by Candido Portinari.
The theft occurred during a time when the usually busy avenue outside the museum was deserted. The culprits had squeezed through a metal door to the outside, using a carjack. Security cameras captured images of three men, somehow avoiding detection by the guards who were changing shifts nearby.
According to the Associated Press, 'They smashed through two glass doors, ran to the museum's top floor and grabbed the two framed paintings from different rooms', the article also has photos of the metal door and the exterior of the museum where they entered the building by the metal gate, reached by the concrete stairway.
Within three minutes they were escaping with the two paintings. Police also found a pair of headphones, near the entrance leading
them to believe that there was a fourth accomplice.
According to the lead police investigator Marcos Gomes de Moura, there was an attempted robbery in October, which was foiled by the alarm, but this time, the security system didn't work. Moura believes that the thieves were the same gang from earlier this year.
"Everything indicates they were sent to do it by some wealthy art lover for his own collection — someone who, although wealthy, was not rich enough to buy the paintings," Moura said.
Jones Bergamin, a local gallery director, estimates that the Picasso, painted in 1904, during his Blue Period could be worth about $50 million. The Portinari, a major Brazilian artist, who's work is pictured here, is estimated at $5 to $6 million.
O Lavrador de Cafe by Candido Portinari
He said that the estimate for the Picasso was based on the sale price of another work from the same period "Garcon Avec Pipe," that sold recently.
Bergamin also said that there were other very valuable paintings in the vicinity and disagrees with the police assumption that the thieves were professionals on this basis, surmising that the Portinari was close to the door and the Picasso was small enough to carry easily.
The Portrait of Suzanne Bloch, was one of the museum's most valuable paintings, from Picasso's earliest period, which featured acrobats, harlequins, paupers, various artists, and women of the night.
Portinari's 'O Lavrador de Cafe' depicts a coffee picker, painted in the artist's 'neo-realism' style in 1939.