Spectacular Art Theft in Berlin | Germany| News and in-depth reporting from Berlin and beyond | DW | 21.04.2002
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Spectacular Art Theft in Berlin

Shockwaves ripple through Berlin’s art-loving community amid reports of thieves having walked off with nine valuable Expressionist paintings from the Bruecke museum.


Stolen...here a reproduction of the "Young Girl" by Max Pechstein

In a daring coup, thieves managed to swipe Expressionist paintings from the famed Bruecke Museum in south-west Berlin.

Police said the robbers broke into a museum through a back window after disconnecting the alarm.

They walked off with nine masterpieces. They include works by Erich Heckel, Emil Nolde and Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and are estimated to be worth several million euro.

The theft was discovered on Saturday morning, but police are still clueless as to the identity of the thieves.

The management at the Bruecke museum is reported to doubt that the paintings will be sold on the art market because they are too well known, but rather believe that could be stolen for a private collection.

The Bruecke Museum which opened in the Berlin suburb of Dahlem in 1967 is one of Germany’s most significant collections of Expressionist art.

It specifically houses the work of the so-called Bruecke – German for bridge - group of artists founded in Dresden in 1905.

The museum owns about 400 paintings as well as thousands of sketches, water colours, wood cuttings and sculptures.

The work and life of every single artist of the Bruecke group are often presented in special exhibitions at the museum.

The Bruecke group was established by Kirchner, Heckel, Fritz Bleyl and Karl Schmidt-Rottluff – all architecture students who aimed to free themselves from traditional styles and experiment with new methods of artistic expression.

Diebstahl im Brücke Museum in Berlin; Gemälde Römisches Stillleben von Erich Heckel gestohlen

Photo shows the reproduced painting by Erich Heckel titled "Römisches Stillleben" at the Berlin police headquarters on Sunday, April 21, 2002. Nine expressionist masterworks worth several million euros (dollars), six paintings by Erich Heckel, and one each by Emil Nolde, Ernst Ludwig Kirchner and Max Pechstein, were stolen from the Bruecke-Museum on Saturday, April 20, 2002, which houseS one of the most important collections of expressionist art in Berlin.

The Bruecke style is characterised by emotional, subjective and angular art.

The group broke up in 1913 due to internal rifts.

Once the Nazis came to power in 1933, they banned the group’s work, denouncing it as "degenerate art".

Several artists of the group were persecuted by the Nazi regime and had their paintings confiscated or destroyed.

Berlin last saw a major art theft in 1989 when two famous pictures by Carl Spitzweg were stolen from the Charlottenburg palace. They haven’t turned up till this day.

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