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article imageArt thieves lift $2M worth of art from South Africa museum

By Sean Fraser     Nov 12, 2012 in Crime
Johannesburg - Two thieves calmly entered the Pretoria Art Museum in Johannesburg, South Africa, paid their entry fee, and proceeded to hold staff and visitors hostage as they swiped several pieces of valuable art by prominent South African artists.
The robbery took place on Sunday after the thieves acted as if they were overly enthusiastic art students, nonchalantly asking a curator to show them several different paintings. Then they drew guns, tied up the curator and several others before plucking the paintings from the wall.
The oil paintings were all created by famous South African artists such as Irma Stern and J.H. Pierneef. Other works by Gerard Sekoto, Maggie Laubser, and Hugo Naude were also stolen. Another of Stern's paintings, entitled "Two Malay Musicians" was left behind after the robbers could not fit it in their getaway vehicle, KMBZ in Kansas City reports.
Johannesburg spokesman Pieter de Necker said that the museum will be closed for the rest of the week and security will be beefed up. The heist ironically occurred less than a week after the museum's surveillance cameras malfunctioned.
Police spokesman Lt. Col. Katlego Mogale made a statement that border patrols will be increased in case the thieves attempt to leave the country, the BBC reports.
Imre Lamprecht, the head of the art department at the prominent art auction house Stephan Welz & Co. said, "My first reaction was, ‘Oh my God, I can’t believe that somebody just walked in and walked out with a whole lot of artworks.' All the artists they took are artists who are doing brilliantly in South Africa and internationally. These works are some of the best works they would have produced."
Lamprecht also commented that "obviously these thieves didn’t know anything about art because that [Stern's "Two Malay Musicians"] is not the painting whoever hired them would want them to leave behind."
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