Novelist Tricked by Pranksters Into Discovering ‘Stolen Picasso’ in Romanian Forest

A Picasso, snatched from Rotterdam’s Kunsthal Museum in 2012 in ‘the theft of the century’, has been revived in an elaborate hoax

Writer Mira Feticu compares the found work with a Picasso print. Courtesy: Mira Feticu

Writer Mira Feticu compares the found work with a Picasso print. Courtesy: Mira Feticu

A Dutch author who wrote a novel based on a 2012 art heist has revealed that she was the victim of a publicity stunt, after she was tricked into believing she had discovered a missing painting by Picasso, which was stolen in the incident.

Mira Feticu, whose book recounted the events surrounding the heist, received an anonymous letter on 9 November with instructions explaining where Picasso’s Tete d’Arlequin (1971) was hidden. The writer then travelled to a forest in an eastern part of Romania accompanied by journalist Frank Westerman. The pair eventually found the location described in the letter and dug into the ground beneath a tree where they found a piece resembling Picasso’s stolen work.

Feticu and Westerman handed the painting into the Dutch embassy in Bucharest where Romanian art experts examined the artwork to determine whether it was the stolen piece.

However, on 18 November Feticu received an email revealing that the hunt was a publicity stunt to promote a project by Belgian theatre directors Yves Degryse and Bart Baele. The project, entitled ‘True Copy’ is dedicated to Geert Jan Jansen, the infamous Dutch forger, whose copies of famous works were regularly sold on the market until he was caught in 1994.

The Picasso painting was among the seven works stolen in 2012 from the Kunsthal Rotterdam in a heist that lasted just three minutes. Dutch media labelled the act the ‘theft of the century’ after works by artists including Picasso, Monet, Matisse, Gaugin and Lucian Freud were stolen from the walls of the gallery after thieves burst through emergency exit doors. The artworks were on loan to the museum at the time and were estimated to be worth up to GBP£160 million.

While four Romanian people were jailed in 2014 and ordered to pay EU€18 million (GBP£16 million) none of the paintings have since been recovered. Experts believe that at least three of the works were destroyed in a fire in an attempt to burn evidence.

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