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Saturday, June 30, 2012

Stolen Art Watch, Boomerang Dali, Publicity Stunt, Fishstein Will Crack Case, Mark My Words

After a Bizarre Journey, a Stolen Dalí Is Returned

The way it was stolen was unusual. So was the way it was returned.

A $150,000 drawing by the Surrealist artist Salvador Dalí that was stolen from a Manhattan gallery last week was sent back to New York from Europe by Express Mail, the United States Postal Inspection Service said Friday. Postal inspectors intercepted it at Kennedy International Airport before it was sorted for delivery, said Donna Harris, a spokeswoman for the inspection service.

The 11-by-14-inch drawing, “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio,” was taken from the month-old gallery Venus Over Manhattan on June 19 by a thief in a checkered shirt who strolled in with a shopping bag and strolled out with the Dalí. He apparently simply lifted it off the wall of the gallery, at 980 Madison Avenue, near East 77th Street.

It had been hanging alongside more than a dozen other works in the gallery’s first exhibition, “A Rebours.” Also in the exhibition were a portrait of the American Indian activist Russell Means by Andy Warhol and a painting called “I Left My Heart at Wounded Knee” by Llyn Folkes, both from the 1970s, and older works like “Des Esseintes” by the French painter Odilon Redon (1888) and “Fairy Mab” by the Swiss-born British artist Henry Fuseli (1793).

The police released surveillance images last week showing the thief in the checkered shirt.

“There was a security guard standing right there,” the gallery’s owner, Adam Lindemann, said at the time, “so how you don’t see a young, sweaty guy with a shopping bag I don’t understand.”

He also wondered, “What do you do with a stolen drawing by Dalí?”

Ms. Harris said Friday that the answer to that question apparently turned out to be, not much. Typically, she said, art thieves cannot sell stolen paintings “because they’re hot.” She said there had been no arrests in the case.

She said the gallery received an e-mail earlier in the week that said the drawing, “Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio,” had been sent back. The e-mail included an Express Mail tracking number. She said the gallery had told the police, and detectives had contacted the inspection service, which retrieved the package at the airport.

The return of the drawing was reported online by The New York Post on Friday afternoon.

A woman who answered the telephone at Venus Over Manhattan said the gallery would not comment.

Mr. Lindemann, an art collector and writer who said last week that the gallery was cooperating with the police, did not return calls to his home telephone on Friday night.

NEW YORK, June 29 (Reuters) - A Salvador Dali painting stolen last week from a New York City gallery was mailed back in pristine condition, police said on Friday.

Glimmers of hope had been raised earlier this week when the gallery received a brief email message by an unknown person, saying the 1949 ink and watercolor "Cartel de Don Juan Tenirio" is "on its way back to you already," police said.

The package was mailed from a location in Europe, and bore a phony sender name and address, according to Deputy New York Police Commissioner John McCarthy.

A spokesman for the gallery, which opened just this year on Manhattan's fashionable Upper East Side, declined to comment.

A second police source speculated that publicity surrounding the theft had complicated efforts to sell the painting on the black market.

Police detectives, including the department's in-house art expert, Detective Mark K. Fishstein, took possession of the painting from postal inspectors at John F. Kennedy International Airport when it arrived in New York on Thursday.

It was returned on Friday to the gallery, where it is being authenticated, McCarthy said.

Last week, a man visiting the gallery removed the painting from a gallery wall, placed it in a shopping bag, and walked out of the building.

Fishstein, the Brooklyn-born son of two antiques dealers, became the department's "art cop" in 2003 after he caught the attention of his superiors as a young patrol officer, McCarthy said.

Fishstein had been called to the apartment of an Upper East Side woman who had been found dead. His sergeant had just finished an inventory of the apartment's valuables when Fishstein suggested police secure the painting on the wall.

"Why?" his sergeant asked.

"It's an original Picasso," Fishstein replied.

In 2008, Fishstein arrested a couple who had stolen a $100,000 Andy Warhol print of Chinese communist leader Mao Zedong from a frame store.

Art Hostage Comments:

Publicity stunt which will be exposed shortly.

However, shows the power of the media in reporting art crime can make these types of "Headache" art thefts counter-productive to criminal enterprise.

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