Suspect arrested after a painting was stolen off a Moscow gallery wall

Video footage released by the government shows the brazen art theft.

January 28, 2019, 1:17 PM

A suspected art thief was caught by police in Moscow after video footage showed a man simply taking a painting off of a wall in the middle of a gallery and walking out the door as onlookers confusedly looked on.

The painting, "Ai-Petri. Crimea" by Russian landscape painter Arkhip Kuindzhi, which was done in 1908 and depicts a mountainous landscape, was on display at Moscow’s Tretyakov Gallery when the thief struck on Sunday.

An image grab shows a man, stealing a famous painting by Arkhip Kuindzh during an exhibition at the Tretyakov Gallery in Moscow, Jan. 27, 2019.
Russian Interior Ministry/AFP/Getty Images

Remarkable video footage published by the Russian Interior Ministry shows a man removing the painting from a wall in the gallery in front of dozens of onlookers on Sunday.

He then walks out the front door with the artwork under his arm.

The picture is estimated to be worth 12 million rubles ($181,000), Vladislav Kononov, director of the museum department of the Ministry of Culture, told Russian news network TASS.

A police officer holds a Crimean landscape by Russian artist Arkhip Kuindzhi following the detention of a man, suspected of stealing a famous painting by a 19th century artist from a Moscow museum in broad daylight.
Russian Interior Ministry/AFP/Getty Images

Russian authorities were alerted to the theft, and the suspect was caught soon after. The painting was discovered by a construction site nearby.

The painting was not damaged and will be delivered back to the Tretyakov Gallery Monday evening, but it will not be exhibited again, the general director of the gallery Zelfira Tregulova told Interfax.

Russian police officers stand at an entrance of the Tretyakov State Gallery museum in Moscow, Jan. 27, 2019.
Pavel Golovkin/AP

"As a result of operational search activities, officers of the Moscow Criminal Investigation Department, as well as the Main Directorate of the Criminal Investigation Department of the Ministry of the Interior of Russia, in cooperation with the FSB of Russia, detained a suspect in the theft of Kuinji's painting," a Russian Interior Ministry spokesperson said.

"A 31-year-old man suspected of theft was detained in the village of Zarechye, Moscow Region," she continued. "The picture was discovered by police on the site under construction in the Odintsovo district. According to preliminary data, the crime was committed out of mercenary motives."

The suspect had previously been detained by Moscow Police on drug charges in December, and an investigation has been launched into "possible accomplices," the spokesperson added.

A suspected thief of a painting by Russian artist Arkhip Kuindzhi, ''Ai-Petri. Crimea'' (1908), stolen from the building of the State Tretyakov Gallery in Lavrushensky Lane, being detained in the village of Zarechye , Russia.
TASS via ZUMA Press

TASS also obtained video footage of the suspect’s arrest.

When asked where he had been on Sunday afternoon, the suspect replied, "I don’t remember really. It is necessary to refresh the memory."

Russian Culture Minister Valdimir Medinsky has ordered a comprehensive inspection of the gallery’s security systems after the theft, according to Interfax.

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