UPDATED: Håkon Bleken, one of Norway’s leading contemporary artists, claimed thieves who stole nine of his paintings from his former home in Trondheim this week might as well deliver them back. “They can’t be sold,” he said. Police, meanwhile, managed to get the paintings back for him.
The theft was discovered just before Christmas in the house Bleken lately has been using for storage. The 82-year-old Bleken was back in his studio the next day, trying to keep his spirits up but clearly shaken by the break-in.
“Things could be worse, but this is bad enough,” he told Norwegian Broadcasting (NRK).
He had painted eight of the works himself, while the ninth was painted by Arthur Alstad. “He was very gifted and the painting was of a woman in Hjorten in the old days,” Bleken told NRK. “It was a damn fine painting and I’m very sorry that it’s gone. That’s maybe the worst loss.”
The paintings, several of which were cut out of their frames by the intruders, were valued at around NOK 1.5 million and police launched a full investigation into the art theft. They disclosed that they had received a few tips they were following up.
Before New Year they’d tracked down the stolen paintings, to a group described by Bleken as “well-known to the police, perhaps from drug circles.” Two persons were arrested and charged with the theft. While Bleken praised the police for “brilliant work,” he was still upset because the recovered paintings were badly damaged.
The thieves, he told newspaper Aftenposten, treated the artworks so badly “that I’ll have to reduce them considerably to get them back in rectangular form.” He said it wouldn’t be easy to restore them. “It would take a lot of work in relation to the results,” he said. “I’m very sad about this.”
Art dealer Per Høien of Galleri Ismene in Trondheim, agreed with Bleken that the paintings would have been hard to sell. “We’re talking about a vital artist here who can articulate the loss publicly,” Høien told NRK
Some of the stolen paintings can be viewed on NRK’s website here (external link).
Håkon Bleken debuted in 1951 and his works hang in many Norwegian museums and galleries. He lives and works in Trondheim, has been awarded the Anders Jahre cultural prize and has been decorated as a commander of St Olav’s Order by the Norwegian king.