Seven arrested for theft of Bacon paintings

The Spanish National Police last Saturday released a photo of one of five artworks by Francis Bacon stolen last year.
The Spanish National Police last Saturday released a photo of one of five artworks by Francis Bacon stolen last year. PHOTO: AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

MADRID • Spanish police said last Saturday that they had arrested seven people suspected of involvement in the theft of five paintings worth €25 million (S$50 million) by renowned British artist Francis Bacon.

The paintings were reported stolen in July last year, along with a safe containing coin collections and jewellery that have yet to be recovered.

Spanish detectives were approached in February by British private investigators specialising in the recovery of stolen artworks.

They had received an e-mail with photographs of the stolen works asking if they were listed as stolen, national police said in a statement.

Investigators then analysed the photo and were able to determine that the camera that took the images was owned by a photographic equipment rental company, which supplied details of the customer who had rented it at the time the paintings were photographed.

The customer, who is suspected of involvement in the crime, was among those arrested, along with a Madrid art dealer and his son.

Sources close to the investigation said in March that the theft appeared to have been a highly professional operation which took place while the owner was away in London, with the perpetrators disabling the alarm system.

The owner of the paintings was reportedly a close friend of Bacon.

The Irish-born artist died in Madrid in 1992 aged 82 and his expressionist-surrealist works, which are often raw and emotional, remain hugely sought after.

His death only enhanced his reputation and the 2013 sale of his 1969 work, Three Studies Of Lucien Freud, fetched US$142,405,000 at auction, a world record at the time.

Art market information leader Artprice lists Bacon as one of 10 frontline modern artists, alongside the likes of Picasso and Andy Warhol, whose works make up 18 per cent of global sales.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on May 30, 2016, with the headline 'Seven arrested for theft of Bacon paintings'. Print Edition | Subscribe