Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Saturday, March 03, 2007

Steven Spielberg stung by Stolen Rockwell in his Art Collection !!

ET informs Steven Spielberg that he has a a stolen artwork in his collection, shame its not the Vermeer !!

Stolen painting found in Spielberg's collection

The director, a major collector of works by Rockwell, contacts the FBI. An agent calls the movie mogul an 'unknowing victim.'

By Greg Krikorian and Ashraf Khalil, Times Staff Writers
March 3, 2007

A Norman Rockwell painting stolen from a Missouri gallery 34 years ago was recovered and authenticated Friday in the collection of movie mogul Steven Spielberg.

Spielberg's spokesman, Marvin Levy, said the director's staff contacted the FBI several weeks ago after seeing a bulletin from the agency's Art Crime Team seeking clues about the theft of the "Russian Schoolroom" oil painting.

"The second anybody said, 'I think we have that painting,' [our] office got a hold of the FBI," Levy said.

Special Agent Chris Calarco of the FBI's Art Crime Team and Jessica Todd Smith, curator of American art for the Huntington Library, inspected the painting Friday afternoon at Spielberg's offices on the Universal Studios lot. The filmmaker was not present.

"He's an absolutely unknowing victim in this," Calarco said of Spielberg.

Calarco declined to speculate on the painting's value, but two sources close to the investigation said it is worth between $700,000 and $1 million.

The painting, depicting schoolchildren in a classroom looking at a bust of Soviet leader Vladimir Lenin, was stolen during an exhibit at a small art gallery in Clayton, Mo., in June 1973.

According to the FBI, its whereabouts were unknown until 1988, when it was sold at an auction in New Orleans for about $70,000.

Spielberg bought the painting from an art dealer in 1989 for an undisclosed sum, Calarco said.

The director is a high-profile Rockwell collector who helped found the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass.

As of last fall, he was listed as the museum's third vice president and a member of its board of trustees.

"He's certainly one of the collectors of Rockwell," said Levy, who wasn't sure how many Rockwell paintings Spielberg owns or where he kept "Russian Schoolroom." "We have a few in our office on the Universal lot."

The probe into the original theft lay dormant until 2004, when art crime investigators determined that the painting had been advertised for sale at a Norman Rockwell exhibit in New York in 1989.

Agents in the New York and Los Angeles field offices began putting out bulletins in art circles and tracking down known Rockwell collectors.

"We were basically just about to figure it out when the Spielberg people made the connection," Calarco said.

Linda Pero, curator of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Mass., said: "I think it's really wonderful."

The FBI made the Spielberg link public late Friday, after an earlier notice — published in today's Calendar section — that the painting may have been found.

For now, the painting will remain in Spielberg's possession.

"I just advised them to hold on to it. It's safe there," Calarco said.
Stolen in St. Louis in ‘73. Found today — on Steven Spielberg’s wall
By Kristen Hinman Published: February 28, 2007
Academy Award-winning director and producer Steven Spielberg has turned over to federal authorities Russian Schoolroom, a 1967 oil on canvas by Norman Rockwell that was filched from a Clayton art gallery in 1973, according to the FBI.
No charges have been filed in the case, and federal officials say they have no evidence that Spielberg knew the painting had been stolen when he purchased it in 1989.
“It appears that he is an innocent buyer,” says St. Louis-based FBI agent Frank Brostrom, a member of the agency’s Art Crime Team, who initiated the investigation. Spielberg is an avid Rockwell collector who helped fund the construction in 1993 of the Norman Rockwell Museum in Stockbridge, Massachusetts, and who joined its board of directors this past September.
According to a December 3 article in the Washington Post, Rockwells from Spielberg’s collection adorn numerous rooms in his office compound at Universal Studios in Hollywood.
The director of Schindler’s List and Saving Private Ryan, among other celebrated films, did not return a phone call from Riverfront Times requesting comment.
Despite its recovery, many details of Russian Schoolroom’s journey from a St. Louis suburb to Spielberg’s collection remain a mystery.
The painting was stolen on the night of June 25, 1973, from a Rockwell exhibit at the Circle Art Galleries in Clayton, by a thief or thieves who smashed through the gallery window and left every other work untouched.
For the next fifteen years, the artwork went underground. According to the FBI, the painting resurfaced in New Orleans in October 1988 at the Louisiana Purchase Auction at Morton Goldberg Auction and Gallery, which has since closed.
The FBI says the painting appeared on the market again in the summer of 1989, when Judy Goffman Cutler, an art dealer on New York’s Upper East Side, put the piece up for sale. Cutler is also the founder of the National Museum of American Illustration, located in Newport, Rhode Island, which owns many of Rockwell’s works.
At least two people, including Mary Ellen Shortland, the manager of the Circle Art Galleries at the time of the theft, saw Cutler’s advertisements for the painting and attempted to get police to relaunch an investigation, but to no avail.
“For whatever reason,” FBI agent Brostrom says, “authorities at that time were unable to locate the original police report or confirm the painting had ever been stolen.”
What led Brostrom to reopen the cold case fifteen years later, in 2004, the agent says, was a message from “a friendly source in the community” who tipped him off to a 1989 Riverfront Times story about Shortland’s efforts.
That story, by longtime contributor Wm. Stage, recounts a conversation with Goffman Cutler, noting that the art dealer “doubted whether the Rockwell in her possession had likely been stolen.” Stage wrote that Goffman Cutler “had gotten it from someone who’d purchased it at auction,” and that “the stolen Rockwell was a different version of the one she had just sold — to an undisclosed person for an undisclosed sum.”
The FBI art crime team believes that “undisclosed person” to whom Goffman Cutler refers was Spielberg.
Brostrom says his “friendly source” indicated the “undisclosed sum” was $200,000.
Goffman Cutler did not return a phone call requesting comment for this story.
Jack Solomon, the former owner of Circle Art Galleries, was Rockwell’s dealer up until several years before the painter’s death in 1978, and was the owner of Russian Schoolroom when it was stolen. “She should have known better,” says Solomon, who now owns S2 Art Center, a Las Vegas gallery, in reference to Goffman Cutler. “She could have checked that — there’s been a record of this ever since the day it was stolen.”
The case broke open suddenly late last week, when the FBI received a call from a Spielberg representative. Someone in the director’s entourage had recently noticed a year-old alert on the FBI’s Web site describing the stolen painting.
The call from Spielberg’s representative came at about the same time that a New York-based member of the FBI Art Crime Team began querying dealers and galleries there in order to determine the most prominent collectors of Rockwells.
That group, according to Rockwell Museum curator Linda Pero, includes former presidential candidate Ross Perot and film director George Lucas, in addition to Spielberg.
An FBI agent in Los Angeles spent the past week negotiating the painting’s return.
“It’s not a typical Rockwell,” notes Solomon, the artwork’s former owner. “He did it when he traveled to Russia at the end of the Cold War. It’s beautiful. It has a lot of reds in it.”
Authorities expect a legal skirmish to ensue over title to the work. The FBI says Spielberg will retain possession until the matter is resolved.
Solomon hopes he’ll be declared the rightful owner. “I’m sure in two calls I could turn it over for X million dollars before the sun goes down,” he says.
Yes, Mr. Spielberg is a Rockwell collector who never bothered to Google the name of this painting, which would have told him within seconds it was stolen
Art Hostage comments:
OK, lets give Mr Spielberg the benefit of the doubt and regard this as a genuine mistake.
Perhaps then Mr Spielberg may consider joining the search for the stolen Vermeer from Boston, and then perhaps a screenplay and film about stolen art to follow?
All we ask is for a "Hand up, not handout"
Furthermore, I wonder if it may be a good idea for all art collectors in Hollywood to check their art collections in case they too have bought a stolen artwork by mistake.
It is an easy exercise, all one has to do is Google the title of the artwork and, hey presto, it will give an answer in seconds.
The fact this could have been done with the Norman Rockwell painting "Russian Schoolroom"anytime over the last few years should not be taken as complicit behaviour by Mr Spielberg, even though he is a prominent Norman Rockwell collector and connoisseur.
He is a very busy man you know and every second is precious.
Finally, the fact the the FBI were asking questions and in the process of obtaining a list of names of prominent Norman Rockwell collectors has nothing to do with the fact that a Spielberg employee spotted the "Russian Schoolroom" painting was publicly listed as stolen.
I am sure Mr Spielberg, who paid $200,000 for the painting in 1989 was not aware of it being stolen.


Anonymous said...

Yes, that is amazing. The FBI didn't ask noted collectors of Rockwell whether they had seen "Russian Schoolroom" offered?

Hills Brother's Coffee in San Francisco has a large Rockwell window card from the early 1930s in their possession. It was on display during a 1990 or 1991 San Francisco Ad Club Point-Of-Purchase show. A year (1932?) later Hills Brothers had to find another artist to do a similar window card. The model was different, but the table and lamp were the same. You can really appreciate Rockwell's technique when comparing the two P-O-P (Point-Of-Purchase) illustrations. I know, as I took detailed photos of the Rockwell painting to show my son who was a high school artist in the East Bay at the time.

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