A man was able to smuggle a $1 million painting out of a Russian gallery in broad daylight after unsuspecting visitors assumed he is an employee at the museum, Independent reported.
A CCTV footage captured the young suspect as he calmly approaches the work of art on Sunday evening at Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow as members of the public looked on.
“After stopping to briefly look at the painting of a Crimean mountaintop, by Arkhip Kuindzhi, the man then brazenly lifted it off the wall and walked out,” the report said.
According to the Russian police, a 31-year-old suspect was arrested, and the painting was recovered. They also noted that the recovered work was undamaged.
The work – titled “Ai-Petri. Crimea” – was discovered after a tip-off hidden at a building site outside Moscow, officers said.
The suspect denied he committed any crimes and said that he has no memory of where he has been on Sunday, during the investigation.
Officials at the museum said that the painting is up on a temporary exhibition that’s why alarms are not set up on it, allowing the suspect to take it off its wall without causing an alarm system to take off.
Vladislav Kononov, an official at the Ministry of Culture, told reporters that the gallery would invest in security and all pictures at the gallery would be fitted with sensors and alarms, moving forward.
Russian state television reported “Ai-Petri. Crimea” was worth more than $1m. Other works by the same artist have sold for more than $3m at auctions.
This is not the first incident that a valuable piece of art was stolen from Tretyakov Gallery, one of Russia’s most renowned museums.
In May a man attacked a famous 19th-century painting of Russia’s first tsar with a metal pole. The attacker reportedly damaged the artwork, which showed Ivan the Terrible cradling his dying son, because he was not happy at its supposed historical inaccuracy.
Authorities blamed the weak security system in the museum and urged them to invest more to make sure that valuable pieces of art and history displayed in the gallery would not be damaged, broken, or stolen. /apr