Art thieves have put on display stolen fragments from works by a rollcall of the 20th century’s best known artists including Andy Warhol, Jeff Koons and Robert Rauschenberg and even, they say, a tiny chip from something considered by some the century’s most influential of all: Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain.
Eva and Franco Mattes do not deny their audacious two-year spree from public museums. And they claim to have stolen only tiny shavings or threads or chips of the art. “We did not consider it vandalism at all,” said Franco Mattes. “It was pretty easy. And we were 19 years old, we did not think so much of the consequences.”
The Matteses said they stole the fragments from 1995 to 1997 and revealed the thefts publicly in 2010. As well as displaying them at a new solo show in London, the couple show a film of their last theft in 1997, in which they steal a fragment of burned cellophane from Alberto Burri’s Bianco Plastica, in a gallery in Italy.
The Matteses said they were trying to “revitalise” the works they stole from. “A lot of the works were so crazy, strong and powerful when they were made, like Duchamp’s Fountain, but became so accepted and it was like energy had been sucked out of them by being put in a museum. The work maybe dies a little bit..