Element Paints writes:

Art theft is a major problem all around the world. With an estimated total loss of up to $6 billion, the crime is second only in dollar value to arms dealing, drug trafficking and money laundering.

A recent analysis of the INTERPOL (International Criminal Police Organization) art theft database performed by Element Paints has revealed some interesting details about what these art thieves are up to.

Which Countries Are Most Affected by Art Theft?

Chart - Countries with the Most Art Theft

Four countries in the Middle East earn the top spots for art theft. With Iraq, Afghanistan, Syria, and Libya by far the largest targets for art thieves. It seems the chaos that exists in these war-torn countries makes them an ideal target. Unfortunately, few stolen items from this region are ever recovered.

France, Austria, Germany, Ukraine, Romania, and Belarus round out the top ten, but generally these countries recover most of their stolen art. Unfortunately Middle Eastern countries do not, and the majority of their stolen pieces are never recovered.

What Kind of Art Is Stolen?

Chart - Top 10 Most Popular Objects with Art Thieves

Both sculptures and paintings make up the largest proportion of stolen items. The reason for this is unknown, it could be because these types of pieces are very common, or perhaps they are highly sought after on the black market.

Ceramic, gold and silverware, weapons, icons, and coins are also popular among thieves. Weapons, such as shields and swords, were surprising to find in the top 10 categories of stolen items but are obviously quite sought after. Religious items, furniture, and glassware also make the list, but these are not nearly as popular as the other art objects. Furniture is obviously difficult to steal and conceal, and glassware would likely have transportation issues.

Where is the Stolen Art Going?

Chart - Where Art is Stolen and Recovered

Perhaps the most shocking revelation from this data analysis is where the stolen art ends up. It’s abundantly clear that most pieces will end up in Europe.

Virtually all the art stolen from Europe stays in Europe, although a small portion finds its way to Asia and the Americas. Almost all the art stolen from Asia and Africa ends up in Europe. Even the majority of art stolen from America ends up in Europe.

This fact is further highlighted by the fact that Paris is the number one city for recovered pieces for stolen art. Interestingly, Arandelovac, a small town in central Serbia, also recovers a lot of stolen art. This is likely a stop on the corridor from the Middle East to Europe.

Chart - Top 10 Cities Where Stolen Art is Recovered

All the data for this report was pulled from the public INTERPOL art theft database, and the graphs above are just a few highlights from the report. If you’re interested in learning more about international art theft then you can read the full art theft report on the Element Paints website.

In recent art news, Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan is being sued by a sculptor for relocating his bronze sculpture of the stump and root system of a very large sycamore tree entitled “The Trinity Root” that was formally installed on the church grounds.

In September 2005, the 18-foot-tall work was installed by sculptor Steve Tobin in the church courtyard in the same location where the original 70-year old sycamore tree stood until it was damaged and ripped out of the ground by the seismic impact of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.

In late 2015, the sculptor discovered that the church had relocated the sculpture to a church-owned site in Connecticut without his consent.  The sculptor had received photographs from the church showing the sculpture with “significant damage” after being told that the sculpture had arrived to the new location in good condition.

The recently filed lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Manhattan alleges that the church violated a law known as the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) that gives visual artists rights over their works even when no longer owed by them.  The sculptor’s attorney said that the law “prohibits the removal of sculptures” created to be permanently installed at a specific site.  “This is about the solemn promise the church gave to Steve Tobin when he offered to create that sculpture” and “[h]e offered to create it if the church would give it a permanent place in the courtyard.  The church agreed.”

According to the lawsuit, after the church’s new leader was installed in 2015, he moved “to send ‘The Trinity Root’ away because he did not want non[-]parishioners and ‘hordes of strangers’ to continue to crowd the church’s courtyard.”

The church released the following statement:  “While we have no comment on this litigation, Trinity is pleased to have the sculpture at Trinity’s retreat center, where it will be among a collection of planned sites that will encourage prayerful reflection, remembrance and spiritual transformation.”

For additional information in connection with this suit, see “Fate Of The ‘Trinity Root’ 9.11 Memorial By Steve Tobin To Be Decided In Federal District Court.”