Big art heist at Dutch museum

Associated Press
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This photo released by the police in Rotterdam, Netherlands, on Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2012, shows the 1919 …

AMSTERDAM (AP) — Several paintings have been stolen from a museum in the Dutch city of Rotterdam that was exhibiting works by Pablo Picasso, Henri Matisse and Vincent van Gogh.

Police are calling for any witnesses to come forward. At least several paintings were stolen early Tuesday morning from the Kunsthal museum , but their names have not yet been released. They are believed to include at least one by Henri Matisse, the 1919 "Reading Girl."

Police spokeswoman Willemieke Romijn said police were reviewing videotapes of the theft, which took place around 3 a.m. local time, and are expected to release images of the stolen paintings later Tuesday.

Mariette Maaskant of the Kunsthal museum said on national radio that the paintings taken were of "considerable value," and belonged to the private Triton Foundation.

The bulk of the foundation's collection went on display for the first time as a single exhibition last week, one of two exhibitions arranged in honor of the Kunsthal's 20th anniversary. The museum is a display space that has no permanent collection of its own — the name means "art gallery" in Dutch.

The Triton Foundation is a collection of avant-garde art put together by multimillionaire Willem Cordia, an investor and businessman who died last year.

The Kunsthal exhibition was showing works by more than 150 famed artists. Others whose work was on show include Alexander Calder, Paul Cezanne, Marc Chagall, Salvador Dali, Edgar Degas, Marcel Duchamp, Paul Gauguin, Jasper Johns, Roy Lichtenstein, Rene Magritte, Claude Monet, August Rodin, and Andy Warhol.

Curators of the Cordia family collection aim to have the works on display for the public, and pieces have been shown in the past. However, the current presentation was the first time the entire collection had been exhibited together.

The museum's chairman Willem van Hassel said the museum will be closed Tuesday, and he referred all questions to the police.

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