Van Gogh work stolen during museum shutdown

BERLIN • A Vincent van Gogh painting was stolen early on Monday from a small museum in Laren in the Netherlands, just 32km south-east of Amsterdam, on what would have been the artist's 167th birthday.

"I feel enormous anger and sadness," Mr Jan Rudolph de Lorm, the museum's director, said in a telephone interview. "Because especially in these dark days we are in, I feel so strongly that art is here to comfort, inspire and heal us."

The police were called to the Singer Laren museum at 3.15am on Monday, when an alarm went off. By the time they got there, the thief or thieves were already gone, said a spokesman for the Dutch police.

All the police found was a shattered glass door and a bare spot on the wall where the painting was displayed.

Hours later, the authorities announced that the work, The Parsonage Garden At Nuenen In Spring, was taken.

The heist comes as museums in much of Europe and the United States are closed in attempts to stem the spread of the coronavirus. It also comes eight years after a spectacular breach at a museum in Rotterdam, where thieves made off with seven paintings valued at more than €100 million (S$157 million) by forcing an emergency exit, exposing the relatively weak security systems at some art museums.

Coronavirus or not, guards are not usually posted at the museum overnight. The alarm system is linked straight to the local police.

"They knew what they were doing, going straight for the famous master," Mr de Lorm said.

Police agreed that it would have taken minutes from the time of forced entry to leaving the premises.

The painting was on loan from the Groninger Museum for a special exhibition, Mirror Of The Soul, which was to run from January to next month.

"It's an early picture, before Arles and before Paris, so it is darker and less recognisable as a van Gogh," said Mr Andreas Bluhm, director of the Groninger.

Because of the coronavirus outbreak, museums in the Netherlands closed on March 13 and the Singer Laren had announced that it would be closed until at least June 1.

"It was a very successful exhibition, attracting over 5,Read More – Source