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300 Words From London: Top Tips For Art Thieves

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by Lake, Editor, London for outsideleft.com
originally published: March, 2005
my best opportunity for an art heist was at Matisse's house in Nice

Tomoko Takahashi has filled the Serpentine Gallery with all manner of rubbish. Broken toys, scouring pads, board games, speak-and-spell machines, children's chairs... And I mean really filled it. Its piled high in there. There is so much stuff, so intricately arranged, that the assistants hand out little toy telescopes so that visitors can see it all up close.

It looks like chaos but of course its all about order.

To test this theory I'm thinking about going back and sending a few of my own little plastic soldiers on a mission behind the art frontline. I think Takahashi would spot them right off. I think that she knows every one of the 7600 pieces and exactly where it belongs. My plastic interlopers would be swiftly ejected into the Kensington grass.

Some think about giving while more take away. I just read that Robert Smithson's Spiral Jetty has been the object of much light-fingered appreciation since it resurfaced from the waters of drought hit Great Salt Lake. A lot of folk have a little piece of appropriated land art on their mantelpiece right now.

When I used to write for a glossier magazine than this I had the invite to the preview of the Jackson Pollock retrospective at the Tate. One weekday afternoon and I'm in the gallery with about a dozen other "critics" being lead around and droned at by some well-meaning guide. Next thing I know they have all wandered off and I'm left entirely on my own. I am inches from one of these huge paintings. I can touch it. I see a little lump of paint sticking out. A little spot. I could reach out and pick it off and have my own tiny pocket Pollock. Of course I don't.

But my best opportunity for an art heist was at Matisse's house in Nice. In the park right next door they were sound-checking an outdoor stage for the Nice jazz festival and every time they played the bass the walls would shake and the motion sensors would set off the alarms in the galleries. The security guards were running from one room to the next as alarms went off all over. It would have been easy to slip one of the smaller paintings out of its frame. Now there's a pitch for Thomas Crown II.

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Lake
Editor, London

the first journalism Lake ever had published was a history of Johnny Thunders for Record Collector magazine, since then he has written for publications including the Guardian, Dazed and Confused, the Idler and more recently, outsideleft.com as you have just seen.

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