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The Gentleman’s Guide to Art Theft

You’ve been seeing a lot of daring, eight-figure heists in the news lately, and it’s led you to one inescapable conclusion: it’s time to become an art thief.

And since you’ve already locked down the tools of the trade—dark suits, grappling hooks, etc.—we’ve scanned through the newswires and assembled a few essential tips for pulling off a suitably sophisticated burglary.

Watch out, Monte Carlo...


Take Advantage of Short Attention SpansThe museum guards do not share your steely determination—so while it’s tempting to employ some elaborate ruse like hallucinogenic blow darts or a time-delayed smoke bomb, you can usually get by with something simpler. Earlier this month, thieves made off with invaluable Picasso and Mondrian paintings from Greece’s National Gallery just by triggering the alarm until the guard on duty got annoyed and turned it off. It’s simple, but it works.

Plan B: A sexy companion also works. This French thief coaxed his comely accomplice into faking a seizure—and made off with $1.4 billion worth of booty in the confusion. He was finally caught after attempting to steal a trumpet—presumably for tooting his own horn.

Boston St. Patrick's

Time Your Stealthy ExitFor discretion’s sake, you’d like your heist to coincide with as many natural distractions as possible—for instance, a citywide cavalcade of public intoxication. In 1990, two thieves disguised as policemen stole $300 million of Renaissance paintings from Boston’s Gardner Museum, waltzing out unsuspected thanks to an opportune St. Patrick’s Day party rowdily raging nearby. Revelers failed to notice the thieves’ mismatched uniforms through their beer goggles.

Plan B: Brazil’s annual Carnival parade is a marathon of pyrotechnics, peacock feathers and rhinestone bikinis. In other words, the ultimate cover for armed robbers who nicked $50 million worth of Picasso, Monet, Matisse and Dalí masterpieces from the city’s Museu Chácara do Céu and vanished into the crowd.

Boy George

Do Not Sell Your Wares to Boy GeorgeIf you decide to cash in your piece of priceless art for a jaunt in the French Riviera, choose your patron with care. For instance, a discrete Japanese collector would probably be a safer bet than, say, a club kid from the ’80s with a penchant for dramatic eyeliner. A bishop from the Cyprus Orthodox Church was watching a Boy George interview on TV when he noticed a stolen painting hanging on the singer’s wall. Turns out the piece had been plundered during Turkey’s invasion of Cyprus in 1974. George ended up returning the piece.

The bishop continues to love Culture Club.