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Off-Campus: The Chicest Thieves

In this weekly feature, we will share our ideas for what you can do “off-campus” while the museum is closed. This week’s entry comes from Nicole M. Roylance, Coordinator of Public Education and Information.

Let me clearly state that I do not advocate theft. In particular, I do not encourage people to steal from museums. However, when Audrey Hepburn and Peter O’Toole plot to steal a sculpture in How To Steal a Million (1966), as a viewer I am not only supportive but entirely besotted with the whole enterprise. This film- with fast cars, gorgeous clothes and even more gorgeous movie stars- makes robbing a museum look like the most glamorous and romantic undertaking.

No unsightly ski mask for Audrey...
No unsightly ski mask for Audrey…

With the recent theft of several works from the Museum of Modern Art in Paris, this film seems charmingly relevant. With the record breaking sale of a Picasso earlier this month for $106.5 million,  this film seem charmingly out of date

Which leads me to wonder if this film could be made today? The art world does not blink at $1 million any more. In the opening scene, the viewer watches an auction where a painting sells for $500,000. When this movie originally premiered this scene was probably more dramatic and audiences could marvel at the large sums of money being offered for a work of art. Such a sum would not merit mention in a newspaper today. So the title of the film would have to change to the far less catchy, How to Steal $106.5 Million.

In How to Steal A Million, Nicole (Audrey Hepburn) and Simon’s (Peter O’Toole) robbery is intended to prevent the world from discovering that Nicole’s famous collecting father is actually a great forger. I wonder which artist he would imitate in a remake? In this film he produces “lost” masterpieces by Van Gogh and Cellini. These are enduring names, but would he attempt a Giacometti sculpture instead? Picasso was still alive when the film was made (although his style is imitated in the opening credits), would a twenty-first century version forge a cubist canvas instead? The recent robbery and auction certainly suggest him as a worthy candidate.

While this remake remains unmade, I would encourage you to enjoy the original. It at once demonstrates the changes in the art world over the past fifty years and possesses a timeless appeal.

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