Tuesday, April 03, 2012

Art goes to the movies: Headhunters

The Nowegian film (Hodejegerne) Headhunters now on general release revisits the popular art-heist genre. This time the art thief is a part-timer using his day job to get info on plump art works ripe for the picking. As usual the art to steal is old art, although we do see a Julian Opie triptych in his office and learn that it is worth NK250,000 ($US43,000) which seems a bit light-on given that a single canvas Opie sold at the Armory show last month for $US35,000. Turns out the NK250,000 figure comes straight from the 2008 Jo Nesbo book the movie is based on.

Anyway, after doing the old switcheroo (Xerox for original) and nicking a Munch print, Roger goes after the big prize. This turns out to be a Peter Paul Rubens worth “Tens of Millions.” That's probably about right as Massacre of the Innocents sold for $76.6 million in 2002. The 'Rubens' that our art thief Roger goes after is a pig hunting scene. It's probably based on an oil-sketch The Calydonian Boar Hunt that was in fact stolen from the Fine Arts Museum of Ghent in Belgium in 2001 and recovered a decade later in Greece. (It had been hidden away by a 40-year-old TV show host and a 65-year-old former antiquarian until they tried to sell it in Athens to undercover officers for $8.4 million – the art underworld, you’ve got to love it). The recovered work has now been downgraded and attributed to 'school of Rubens' while the Headhunters' version (also an oil-sketch) is enough to send any Rubens fan sliding under the seat. The movie's message? Don’t steal bad versions of Peter Paul Rubens.

Images: Pondering the big art issues in Headhunters