Christopher Talbot, Herald Sun
IN December 1985, the National Gallery of Victoria became the proud owners of the Picasso masterpiece Weeping Woman.
It was the most expensive artwork acquired by an Australian art gallery and cost Victorian taxpayers $1.6 million.
Eight months later it was gone.
When the painting was first acquired in 1985, gallery director Patrick McCaughey said the painting would “haunt Melbourne for the next 100 years”.
He wasn’t wrong. The biggest art heist in Victoria’s history has never been solved and the culprit (or culprits) never caught.
On Monday, August 4, 1986 The Age newspaper received a letter addressed to then-arts minister Race Mathews that read: “We have stolen the Picasso from the National Gallery as a protest against the niggardly funding of the fine arts in this hick State.”
The paper phoned the gallery and indeed the most expensive painting in the nation was gone.
“Confronting the bare wall and the fake label, I was aghast. I excused myself from the committee meeting and began a search of the gallery, desperately hoping that it was a prank and that the painting had been hidden in the building,” McCaughey said in his book The Bright Shapes and the True Names.