Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Thursday, August 28, 2008

Stolen Art Watch, Boston Masterpiece Stolen, Thrown in Garbage Just a Ruse to try and Smoke out the Thief !!

Wellesley College museum's cherished Leger is lost, and the crate that held it may have been trashed

A prized 1921 painting by the French cubist Fernand Leger has been lost - perhaps unintentionally thrown out - by Wellesley College's Davis Museum and Cultural Center.

That would be a costly mistake. Last year, the average Leger painting sold for $2.8 million.

"Woman and Child" is part of an important series by Leger that applied jagged, geometric strokes to a familial theme. John McAndrew, then director of the Davis, gave the oil on canvas to the museum in 1954, and it has hung on the walls of the Davis for most of the time since.

"It's very sad and upsetting that it's gone," said Wellesley art historian Patricia Gray Berman, who brought her students to look at the Leger every semester. "It's a great painting, and I hope it comes home."

College and museum officials declined to comment, other than to release a pair of short statements this week. Police have been informed of the missing painting, and the museum's insurer has already paid off its claim.

In the statements, the museum provided a timeline leading up to the Leger's disappearance. The painting, which measures 25 inches by 21 inches, was taken down early in 2006, in advance of the museum's renovation that May. It was sent to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art along with 31 other works for an exhibit that ran from March 2, 2006, through April 8, 2007.

The Oklahoma City museum returned the works a week after the show closed, but they remained in crates for months because the Davis construction project was still underway. A crate believed to contain the Leger sat in the museum's fifth-floor galleries through last fall, when it was moved to a vault elsewhere in the building. In November, museum administrators discovered the painting was missing when they were compiling a digital catalog and sought to include information about the Leger, according to one of the statements.

A few days later, Davis registrar Bo Mompho called Oklahoma City Museum of Art registrar Matthew C. Leininger.

"She asked me, 'Do you have our Leger, by chance?' " Leininger recalled yesterday. "I said, 'No, why are you asking?' That's when she said they couldn't find it. I said, 'Oh, boy.' "

Leininger scoured his museum's crate room and vault. But, he said, he already knew the painting had been shipped back. When the museum's exhibit ended, he followed policy by cataloging each work as it was packed. The Leger had been put into a crate with two other works, an Armand Guillaumin oil on canvas and a László Moholy-Nagy oil on linen.

On April 16, 2007, two trucks left Oklahoma City with two crates of art and an accompanying Davis museum preparator, according to Leininger. All of the other shipped works have been accounted for, both the Davis and Oklahoma City museums confirm.

During that November call, Leininger asked Mompho if she and her staff had checked their vaults. They had.

"I said, 'Where are the crates?' " Leininger said. "And she said, 'They were sent off to be destroyed.' "

Mompho did not answer requests for comment yesterday.

Museum officials also did not respond to questions about the Davis's standard procedures for cataloging incoming artworks, or whether they were followed in this case.

Late last year, in a meeting with anxious Wellesley art historians, Davis Museum director David Mickenberg said that the painting may have been destroyed along with the crates, according to three faculty members who attended the meeting. He also speculated that it could have been stolen sometime after leaving Oklahoma City. The painting has been reported as missing to the Art Loss Register, an online database of stolen or lost works. A Wellesley Police Department spokesman confirmed yesterday that investigators are working with college police on the case, though there is nothing to report.

Mickenberg did not return repeated phone calls this week. Other museum staff members referred calls to Davis spokeswoman Barbara Levitov.

Founded more than 120 years ago, the Davis is central to Wellesley's educational mission, and puts on such substantial shows as "Global Feminisms" and "On Edge: Contemporary Chinese Artists Encounter the West." The museum reopened last September, but as word of the missing painting spread, it put a damper on that good news.

"We've all wondered about it," said Jacqueline Marie Musacchio, associate professor of art at Wellesley. "It's a tremendous loss for the college, but, beyond that, we just don't have a lot of information."

Matthew Affron, a University of Virginia art history professor with expertise in Leger, described "Woman and Child" as an important work in the artist's 50-year career.

"He was well known at the time for a style that had hard edges, bright colors, and strong geometry that stood for order and precision, but in a work like this he combined that very static style with a very timeless subject," Affron said.

Carolyn Hill, director of the Oklahoma City museum, said she imagines that Mickenberg and his staff are heartbroken by the loss.

"What I can't imagine is that they get through the checklist, why wasn't it discovered that that painting was not accounted for? That's just a question that's unanswered."

If the painting was, in fact, stolen, the likelihood of recovery declines with each passing day. Anthony Amore, director of security for the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, itself the victim of a 1990 theft of 13 priceless works, declined to comment on the Davis case specifically.

"I would liken it to a kidnapping," said Amore. "Those first few hours and days are vital."

While Travelers Insurance confirmed yesterday that it paid the museum's claim, officials at the Hartford-based company would not say exactly how much the Davis received. When asked how the payout compared with the $2.8 million average sale price of a Leger, a Travelers official conceded that the payoff was "in that area." The company is offering a $100,000 reward for the painting and is still investigating the case.

"It's the largest loss Travelers ever had," said Andrew Gristina, director of fine art insurance for the company. "It's incredibly unusual for a painting of this value and, frankly, of this quality to disappear without a trace."

Art Hostage comments:

So, how does one actually collect this supposed reward offer of $100,000 ?

Truth of the matter is investigators have a clear idea who may have taken this artwork, a worker, employee etc.

The line being spun about the artwork may have been thrown out in the garbage is just a ruse to allow the current handler of this artwork to try and hand back the artwork for the reward and claim they found it amongst garbage.

Where have we heard this before ?

Remember last year when Elizabeth Gibson said she found the stolen painting in a garbage skip, linked here:

Because she had got her story right and authorities could not prosecute her, Elizabeth Gibson was allowed only a minimum amount.
Also see this story of another who tried to say they just found a stolen artwork:
The outcome is linked here:
Also see this story:
The outcome is still awaited, but make no mistake no large reward will be paid.
Now, authorities are hoping to fool the person in possession of this Wellesley Collage Leger artwork to come forward and hand it back using the same tactic as Elizabeth Gibson.

However, as soon as the painting surfaces whomever tries to claim the $100,000 reward will be arrested and even if they are not indicted they would face an uphill battle to get any reward offered.

Remembering also Elizabeth Gibson waited years before revealing she had the stolen Tamayo painting.

So, to sum up.

If you are the person in possession of this artwork you are hereby warned you will, I repeat Will never get the reward and also stand a good chance of getting arrested and indicted.
The first thing you will be asked to provide is "Proof of Life", what is written on the back of the painting, a photograph etc. The reason for this is ensnare and hook you as demonstrating control of the painting.
Then subsequently if you realise you are going to be stung and try to walk away, authorities can indict you for demonstrating control of this stolen painting by Leger.
This will be used as leverage to make you go through with the recovery.
If you do not co-operate you will end up in jail.
So by offering proof of life you implicate yourself.-
Authorities will try and say they need proof of life to make sure they dealing with the right person, bullshit, it is to entrap anyone trying to negotiate the return of stolen art.

However, if you want to return this artwork then just call Travelers and tell them where they collect the artwork, do not try and claim any reward, specifically, do not give any indication of your identity, walk away without reward, but with your Liberty intact.

If you disregard the advice of Art Hostage and try to negotiate the reward I can assure you it will end in tears and possibly end in jail time, but hey, take the chance if you wish, but don't say you were'nt warned.


Anonymous said...

I was working at the Davis Museum during the summer of the renovation, and was contacted by campus police during their investigation. I can tell you that consensus among museum staff was that the artwork was accidentally thrown out, not stolen (by an employee or outsider). I obviously do not know more than the officers assigned to the case and don't assume to know what actually happened to the Leger, but I think this case may be more cut and dry than you suspect.

Art Hostage said...

Art Hostage says:

If the Leger was really thrown out then I am sure it would not have been destroyed, but would have been rescued from the garbage and is currently housed in that persons custody.

That person should have realised what they have because of all the publicity and they are not sure what to do next.

Well, if they are truly innocent and want to collect the reward they should step up to the plate and reveal themselves with the painting. Their story will be double checked and if proved to be correct then I see no reason why the reward should not be paid.

However, if they feel $100,000 is not enough and want more they must be very careful as this could be constrood as blackmail and an extortion attempt.

The longer they hold onto the Leger painting, especially with all the publicity, the harder it will be to collect the reward, as this will look like they were holding out for more money.

Of course this could all be accademic as the Leger was stolen in the first place and the thief or handler is wondering how to get their grubby hands on the reward money.

Either way, the story of how they came into possesion of the Leger will be scrutinised closely and background checks will be made.

So, if this was a theft and those involved want a pay day they must make sure they nominate a person to hand back the Leger who can stand up to the close scrutiny and pass that with flying colours, before being in a position to claim the reward money.

Anything less will result in arrest and no reward will be paid.

The man thing here is to get the Leger back and in this case the door has been left open for a legitimate reward claim, as long as the person can stand the scrutiny.

For all advice on returning stolen art consult Art Hostage, for everything else, use Mastercard !!