J.M.W. Turner

Tate Turner thieves convicted

Unrecovered paintings stolen in Frankfurt, 1994.

Three men have been convicted of the theft of the Tate Gallery’s two Turners which were stolen in Frankfurt in 1994, although the paintings have not been recovered. On 5 February the ringleader, Stephan Weiss, aged thirty-one, was sentenced by a Frankfurt court to eleven years. His accomplice, Yusef Tuerk, was given eight years. Stefan Hoefler, convicted of helping to sell the masterpieces, received two and a half years. Two others were acquitted. Prosecutors said that the robbers had gained access to the Schirn Kunsthalle by switching off the alarms and then entering through a freight lift. The thieves knocked out a guard, tying him up and taking his keys. They left fingerprints on the emergency exit and later tried to sell the Turners to an undercover police agent. Investigators following the case believe that those involved in the subsequent movement of the two Turners and a Casper David Friedrich include Germans, Turks, Serbians and Russians. The recent convictions will not necessarily lead to a speedy recovery. The Tate Gallery has already received a £24 million insurance payment for the Turner’s “Shade and darkness” and “Light and colour” (The Art Newspaper, No.82, June 1998, p.17), but the gallery is still anxious to reacquire its works, and is optimistic that they will eventually surface. London loss adjuster Tyler & Co has offered a $250,000 reward for information leading to a recovery. The third painting stolen was Friedrich’s “Wafting mist”, on loan to Frankfurt from the Hamburg Kunsthalle.

Appeared in The Art Newspaper Archive, 91 April 1999