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Thursday, September 04, 2003

The Museum of Lost Art is a low glass building set in parkland, a place you drive past on the motorway, barely registering it. Approach across the rape fields and what at first had seemed to be a greenhouse turns out to contain not tomatoes but paintings. Hanging low in pale daylight are vanished masterpieces by Rembrandt, C├ęzanne, Manet, Braque and Vermeer.

The museum extends deep underground. Inside, Bill Gates, Charles Saatchi and Osama bin Laden sip champagne at a very, very private view. In the cafe, the salt-cellar is a stolen work by Cellini, and in the bookshop, Thomas Pynchon signs copies of the catalogue which he has written. Everything in the Museum of Lost Art is invaluable and everything is illegal. There are even masterpieces the world believes to have been lost in floods and fires. As you wander through, paintings take on the appeal of something wrong and sinful. It is my favourite museum.

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