Art theft is a major problem all around the world. With an estimated total loss of up to $6 billion, the crime is second only in dollar value to arms dealing, drug trafficking and money laundering.
A recent analysis of the INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) art theft database performed by Element Paints has revealed some interesting details about what these art thieves are up to.
Which Countries Are Most Affected by Art Theft?
Four countries in the Middle East earn the top spots for art theft. With Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya by far the largest targets for art thieves. It seems the chaos that exists in these war-torn countries makes them an ideal target. Unfortunately, few stolen items from this region are ever recovered.
France, Austria, Germany, Ukraine, Romania, and Belarus round out the top ten, but generally these countries recover most of their stolen art. Unfortunately Middle Eastern countries do not, and the majority of their stolen pieces are never recovered.
What Kind of Art Is Stolen?
Both sculptures and paintings make up the largest proportion of stolen items. The reason for this is unknown, it could be because these types of pieces are very common, or perhaps they are highly sought after on the black market.
Ceramic, gold and silverware, weapons, icons, and coins are also popular among thieves. Weapons, such as shields and swords, were surprising to find in the top 10 categories of stolen items but are obviously quite sought after. Religious items, furniture, and glassware also make the list, but these are not nearly as popular as the other art objects. Furniture is obviously difficult to steal and conceal, and glassware would likely have transportation issues.
Where is the Stolen Art Going?
Perhaps the most shocking revelation from this data analysis is where the stolen art ends up. It’s abundantly clear that most pieces will end up in Europe.
Virtually all the art stolen from Europe stays in Europe, although a small portion finds its way to Asia and the Americas. Almost all the art stolen from Asia and Africa ends up in Europe. Even the majority of art stolen from America ends up in Europe.
This fact is further highlighted by the fact that Paris is the number one city for recovered pieces for stolen art. Interestingly, Arandelovac, a small town in central Serbia, also recovers a lot of stolen art. This is likely a stop on the corridor from the Middle East to Europe.
All the data for this report was pulled from the public INTERPOL art theft database, and the graphs above are just a few highlights from the report. If you’re interested in learning more about international art theft then you can read the full art theft report on the Element Paints website.