Art Miami is famous for being one of the premier international art events. Every year, galleries around the world flock to the fair to show off collections containing some of the most important works of contemporary art.
However, some of the biggest news to come out of this year's Art Miami, which took place from Dec. 2 to Dec. 7, did not have to do with the art on display but what wasn't in the show. Or rather, what went missing.
Someone — or some people — stole a work by Pablo Picasso, the Visage aux Mains (Face with Hands) (1956), from the booth of Amsterdam-based Leslie Smith Gallery, according to the Miami Herald. The gallery's owner David Smith arrived at the booth on Friday morning and noticed the piece had gone missing.
If you think like I do, you're probably wondering how something like this could disappear while there's plenty of people around, not to mention security. Well, the piece is a 16.5-inch-wide silver plate with an engraved smile and hands, so it sure sounds like something small enough to swipe, at least where art is concerned. The plate is No.16 in a 20-plate series and is worth $85,000.
— Miami Herald (@MiamiHerald) December 5, 2014
Police say there were no witnesses or video surveillance at the time the incident took place. There were also no security cameras in the booths, just 24-hour guards at entrances and exits and locks and chains on the doors.
As the investigation continues, the stolen piece will be reported to an international database that notifies art dealers about the theft. This will help make it more difficult for the thief to sell the art, because any art collector or dealer will know that the piece has been stolen. That fact hurts the work's provenance, which helps ensure that a piece is legitimate and not stolen.
Of course, the thief could sell the art for the silver alone, but that would only be worth about $400, according to the Miami Herald. Given the difficulty of selling this piece legitimately, the only option could be to sell the work on the black market or just lay low for a while before making a deal, as Steve Schlackman at Art Law Journal details.
If all of that seems like too much work or too time consuming, there's a $5,000 reward being offered to whoever returns the piece, no questions asked, the Miami Herald reports. Unfortunately, if the art heists that have come before teach us anything it's that once a piece of art goes missing, it can be very difficult to recover.