FBI offers reward for stolen Warhol soup can prints
The prints have been on display at the museum since 1985 are valued at $500,000 (£351,000).
The screen print collection is based on paintings created by Warhol in 1962.
Each print is individually framed and the ones stolen are for soup cans with the labels beef, vegetable, tomato, onion, green pea, chicken noodle and black bean.
Museum director Nick Nelson has praised the "outpouring of support of the Springfield community and the quick response of the Springfield Police Department and FBI".
"For those of us who work at the museum and in Springfield's art community, the theft of these iconic Warhol prints that the museum has had in our permanent collection for 30 years feels like the loss of a family member," he said.
"We appreciate any assistance the public can provide to law enforcement to ensure the return of these treasured pieces of art."
The museum is remaining open to the public and is looking at its security measures.
"The museum is working with the proper authorities and being proactive in our security efforts as we remain open to the public. We are confident that the measures we are taking will protect the museum's treasures, while still making art accessible to our community," Nelson said.
The FBI has a specialised Art Crime Team to recover stolen items and prosecute art and cultural property crime.
Stolen in '55, 'inverted Jenny' stamp resurfaces
This undated photo provided by Spink USA shows a 1918 "inverted Jenny" stamp. Stolen in 1955, the stamp surfaced last week at Spink USA, a New York auction house. Considered America's most famous stamp, inverted Jennies were worth 24 cents when issued, but they fetch hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars today.
NEW YORK -- Opening a new chapter in an infamous stamp-world mystery, a valuable "inverted Jenny" stamp has surfaced six decades after it was stolen from a collectors' convention.
The stamp — one of the world's most famous pieces of postage — was among four of its kind taken from a 1955 collectors' convention. While two were recovered over 30 years ago, there had been no sign of the others until this one was submitted to a New York auction house this month and authenticated.
"It's one of the most notorious crimes in philatelic history, and there's a piece of the puzzle now that's in place," said Scott English, the administrator of the American Philatelic Research Library, which owns the stamp and is working with auctioneers Spink USA and federal authorities to recover it.
The would-be consigner, a man in his 20s who lives in the United Kingdom, said he'd inherited the stamp from his grandfather and knew little about it, said George Eveleth, head of Spink USA's philatelic department. He said authorities had told the auctioneers not to release the name of the consigner, who is in his 20s.
While it's unclear whether the man can shed any light on the long-cold trail to the thieves, the stamp was accompanied by an intriguing item: a 1965 letter about a monetary loan from a noted stamp dealer to a well-known auctioneer, both now dead, Eveleth said. The letter isn't necessarily connected to this stamp, however.
Still, the Bellefonte, Pennsylvania-based philatelic library hopes the stamp's discovery could lead to new clues.
"We're going to remain optimistic," English said. "Because think about it: Here we are, 61 years later, and a stamp has appeared."
Worth 24 cents when issued in 1918, inverted Jenny stamps fetch hundreds of thousands of U.S. dollars today. While other stamps are rarer, the Jenny is one of few that is readily recognized even by non-collectors, Eveleth said.
It made its way into popular culture in movies such as 1985's "Brewster's Millions," in which Richard Pryor's character uses one to mail a postcard, and television shows including "The Simpsons," in which Homer Simpson finds but disregards a sheet of them at a flea market. The Postal Service issued a commemorative inverted Jenny stamp in 2013.
The original was made to celebrate the launch of U.S. air mail. Some were printed with the Curtiss JN-4H "Jenny" biplane inverted, and a savvy customer bought a 100-stamp sheet before anyone realized the error.
Over the years, they were separated, coveted, counterfeited and narrowly saved from the blitzkrieg of London in World War II and from a flood in Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania.
A block of four was on loan to the American Philatelic Society when stolen from a display case at its 1955 convention in Norfolk, Virginia. The lender, who died in 1980, gave her rights to the stolen stamps to the society, which shares some ties with the American Philatelic Research Library.
Two of the Jenny stamps were recovered in the '70s and '80s from different Chicago stamp connoisseurs, who said they'd bought the stamps from people who had since died or whose names they didn't know, according to a 2014 article in American Philatelist, the society's journal.
Montenegro Probes Investigative Reporter for Drug Trafficking
| Martinovic worked with the Vice media group on the
production of a documentary
series about the Pink Panthers and closely cooperated with Dusko Martinovic,
who was one of the leading interviews in the series | Youtube screenshot.
Martinovic, who has worked as a contributing reporter for international media including The Economist, Newsday, the Global Post, the Financial Times and BIRN, has been in custody since October 22, 2015, on suspicion of involvement in a drug-trafficking scheme.
Martinovic, whose six-month custody remand is due to expire on April 22, was arrested alongside 17 other people from Montenegro in a joint operation with Croatian police.
They are suspected of membership of a criminal organization and drug trafficking.
Montenegro nationalist, Dusko Martinovic, a former member of an international group of jewel thieves known as the Pink Panthers, is suspected of being the mastermind of the crime gang.
During the operation, police staged raids in several towns in Montenegro and Croatia, seizing 3.5 kilogrammes of cocaine, 1.5 kilos of herion and 21 kilogrammes of marijuana. Criminal charges were filed against a total of 29 people.
According to the prosecution’s request for an investigation, which BIRN has seen, the 42-year-old reporter is suspected of “mediating in the setting up of a criminal group for drug smuggling”.
Martinovic has insisted he is not guilty, saying that his contact with the other suspects was linked to his journalistic work. His family and lawyer said they did not want to comment on details of the case until the prosecution decides whether to indict him next week.
Over the last 15 years, Martinovic has worked on a several high-profile journalistic research projects which have been published in the some of the world’s most influential media, exposing war crimes and organised crime across the Balkans.
But the authorities in Montenegro insist that his arrest was not related to his work as a reporter.
Over the last ten years, Martinovic has worked on several investigations into the Pink Panthers gang, most of whose members come from the former Yugoslavia. Some 60 Montenegrin nationals were suspected of belonging to the crime network, which reportedly involved a total of 800 people who were directly or indirectly linked to 370 robberies in 35 states.
Martinovic worked as an associate producer for the 2013 documentary about the gang, Smash and Grab.
He worked also with the Vice media group on the production of a 2014 documentary series about the Pink Panthers and closely cooperated with Dusko Martinovic, who was one of the leading interviews in the series.
Another suspect in the drug-smuggling case, Namik Selmanovic, is believed to be an extra in the Vice series.
During 2015, Martinovic continued his contacts with former ‘Panther’ Dusko Martinovic, acting as a local producer for a planned Hollywood film about his life.
At the time of his arrest, Martinovic was working as a fixer with the French production company, CAPA Presse, which had hired him to do background research and find sources for a documentary called La Route de la Kalashnikov.
The documentary, which aired on the French television station Canal Plus in January, exposed illegal smuggling of weapons from the Balkans into Western Europe.
Another suspect in the drug case, Namik Selmanovic, worked with Martinovic after being hired by the French production as a fixer on the Kalashnikov film.
According to prosecution documents, which BIRN has seen, at the time of the arrests, Selmanovic was at large and could not be found by the Montenegrin authorities.
CAPA Presse sent a letter to the Montenegrin prosecution in January, expressing deep concern over Martinovic’s continuing detention.
The letter confirmed that he was working for the company at the time of his arrest on the arms trafficking documentary, and had also worked on its film about the Pink Panthers gang.
The OSCE’s media freedom representative, Dunja Mijatovic said she wrote to Montenegrin Prime Minister Milo Djukanovic about Martinovic and got a reply that also said he was not detained over his journalistic activities.
“The letter [from Djukanovic] states that the charges against Martinovic are not related to his work as a journalist,” Mijatovic said a report to the OSCE Permanent Council last month.
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists told BIRN on Thursday that it had written to the Montenegrin special prosecutor for organised crime, which is in charge of the case, to call for Martinovic’s release, and expressed “deep worry about Martinovic's prolonged and continued detention”.
|A ‘courageous and intrepid’ journalist
Award-winning journalist Michael Montgomery told BIRN that Jovo Martinovic played a key role in several investigations he conducted with Stephen Smith for American RadioWorks, BIRN and the BBC from 1999 to 2015.
The stories spurred international criminal inquires that resulted in the prosecution and conviction of Serbian and ethnic Albanian paramilitaries for war crimes.
“Jovo Martinovic is one of the most courageous and intrepid researcher-reporters I have ever known,” Montgomery said.
Martinovic’s research also formed the bedrock for another investigation by Montgomery which has received intense media coverage - allegations of organ-trafficking and other abuses by the Kosovo Liberation Army.
As a direct result, the Council of Europe conducted an exhaustive inquiry headed by Special Rapporteur Dick Marty. This inquiry led in turn to the creation of a new special court in The Hague to prosecute perpetrators of crimes against civilians in Kosovo.
“Until now, I have not publicized Jovo's role in this investigation out of concerns for his safety,” Montgomery said.
He pointed out that one of Martinovic’s skills involves tracing underground criminal networks and interacting with members of these groups to elicit information of vital journalistic importance.
“This is what he does, very effectively. Without Jovo, there would be no Marty report and no special court in The Hague,” Montgomery said.
He said that he finds Martinovic’s continuing incarceration in Montenegro deeply troubling for a country aspiring to membership of NATO.
On Wednesday, an international media watchdog Reporters Without Borders told the Council of Europe that Martinovic’s job involved helping to trace underground weapons networks and interacting with members of criminal groups in the Balkans.
It said that he “was arrested on 22 October 2015 in relation to this assignment”.
Martinovic’s journalistic work in the 1990s also brought him into contact with a variety of sources, some of whom may have been involved in criminal activities at some point.
Martinovic’s research also formed the bedrock for another investigation by Montgomery and his colleague Stephen Smith, which has received intense media coverage - allegations of organ-trafficking and other abuses by the Kosovo Liberation Army.
He worked on a radio documentary called Massacre at Cuska, which looked at the killings and deportations during the Kosovo war which prompted NATO’s air strikes against Yugoslavia.
The documentary explored a massacre of 72 civilians in and around the Kosovo village of Cuska in May 1999 and spurred several important war crime investigations that led to convictions in Kosovo and Serbia.
He also worked for over a decade with Matt McAllester, a Pulitzer Prize-winning reporter, on several investigations related to war crimes and organised crime in the Balkans.
Their work included investigations of Serbian war crimes during the wars in Bosnia and Kosovo and a Global Post exclusive on the Pink Panthers gang.
Ukraine Recovers 4 Stolen Dutch Paintings
(ANSA) - Rome, - Carabinieri art police have tracked down and recovered items from the Castellani collection of precious gold jewelry that were stolen at Easter 2013 from the National Etruscan Museum at Rome's Villa Giulia, officials said Thursday. The objects were crafted in the 19th century, in part using material from the excavation of ancient Etruscan, Greek and Rome sites. "It's a great day, now the gold will return to the museum," said Culture Minister Dario Franceschini. Officials said the Carabinieri's crack Cultural Heritage Protection Unit - one of the world's most famous divisions of art police - had managed to recover 23 of the the 27 precious items of jewelry worth a total of three million euros stolen from Villa Giulia in April 2013. The operation led to the identification of the band of people who allegedly carried out the robbery and those who allegedly received the items. Six people have been notified that the investigation is over, a move that frequently comes before a trial request.
The case was handled by Giancarlo Capaldo, coordinator of the crimes against cultural heritage group of the Rome prosecutor's office, and Tiziana Cugini, the prosecutor heading up the probe.
Judicial sources said a rich Russian woman commissioned the theft of the jewels, which went through the hands of a Roman antiques dealer who acted as middle man.
Capaldo and Culture Ministry Secretary-General Antonella Recchia revealed the details of partial results - the probe is ongoing - of the long investigation which led to 23 of tghe 27 stolen objects being recovered.
The deal, which was meant to take the jewels abroad, went belly up, they said, amid the loud media clamour sparked by the heist.
The woman, identified in the first days of the probe, was stopped and ID'd at Fiumicino Airport as she was leaving for St Petersburg.
Accompanied by the daughter of the antiques dealer, was carrying a catalogue of the Castellani jewels and had on her i-Phone some photos of the museum room where the theft took place, with all the details of the surveillance system. Once the deal went south the thieves contacted local fences, Capaldo and Recchia told reporters.
Landrigan is representing the estate of Paris art dealer Oscar Stettiner, which is seeking to have the art-collecting London and New York-based Nahmad family return Amadeo Modigliani's “Seated Man With A Cane, 1918,” which it claims the Nazis seized during World War II.
The recently leaked Panama Papers confirm what the Stettiner family claimed in court years ago, Landrigan said, which is that the painting is held by International Art Center (IAC), a company owned by the Nahmads.
While the more than 11 million leaked documents from the Panama-based law firm Mossack Fonseca have implicated many of the world's most rich and powerful, several documents reveal that the Panama-based IAC has been controlled by the Nahmad family for more than 20 years.
Philippe Maestracci is the grandson and sole heir to the Oscar Stettiner estate.
“The ultimate goal is to let Philippe Maestracci gain possession of his grandfather’s painting, and what he does with it afterwards is up to him,” Landrigan said. “Just the historical justice, Philippe Maestracci should be able to spend whatever time he chooses in the same room as the painting that was stolen from his grandfather during the war, just as a matter of what’s right.”
According to BBC, Richard Golub, the lawyer for the family's leader David Nahmad, said it was "irrelevant" who owned IAC.
“What is pertinent is can the claimant prove that the painting belonged to his family,” Golub told Bloomberg News. “The answer we believe is absolutely not.”
In 1946, Stettiner filed a claim in France, but died two years later while the court case was still pending.
Decades later, the piece was purchased in 1996 by IAC, according to court filings, at a Christie’s London auction for $3.2 million.
Golub said that Christie’s researched the previous ownership of the work and published it before the 1996 auction, according to Bloomberg.
“There was then not a shred of evidence in any registry or any database that referred to this painting as being a Nazi looted painting,” he said.
In 2005, the painting was exhibited at the Helly Nahmad Gallery in New York, which is owned by David’s son Helly. Valued at $18 million to $25 million, the painting was offered at auction at Sotheby’s in 2008 but failed to sell.
Currently, the painting is in a warehouse in Switzerland, according to court filings.
Landrigan said they believe IAC, the Helly Nahmad Gallery and the Nahmad family are one in the same, and that the Panama Papers confirm this. In addition, according to The New York Times, the art world has long associated IAC with the Nahmad family.
“The significance of the connection to the Panama Papers is the use of these offshore entities as a mechanism for people to obscure their criminal dealings and dealing in stolen property is significant,” Landrigan said. “That significance is well beyond this case. We have the opportunity here to just do the right thing, which is to get this painting back to this family that it was taken from.”
The goal is to not only help Maestracci achieve some closure by gaining possession of his grandfather’s painting, according to Landrigan, but to also send a message to those trying to hide behind shell companies in Panama.
“The Panama Papers gives an opportunity to bring this to the front,” he said, “public awareness, and to let dealers know that they can’t continue to do it, and when they try hide in Panamanian shell companies that we’re going to find them.” - See more at: http://www.warwickadvertiser.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20160414/NEWS01/160419980/Warwick-attorney-involved-in-case-linked-to-Panama-Paper#sthash.hE5PK8yI.dpuf
Head of tomb raiding gang sentenced to death
Chaoyang City Intermediate People’s Court sentenced 22 members of the gang on Thursday.
Yao was found guilty of several offenses including tomb raiding, looting and selling stolen antiques.
The court heard that Yao’s gang was highly organized, and would source fund, explore, loot and trade relics. Among 32 artifacts retrieved by police, 16 were under grade-one state cultural protection.
The court on Thursday ordered that 77 relics still in the possession of the gang members must be returned.
Yao’s gang was among 12 organized gangs implicated in illegal excavations at Niuheliang, a Neolithic site in northeastern Liaoning. Police apprehended 225 people and retrieved a total of 2,063 artifacts.
Distinctive jewellery stolen in Petworth antiques shop burglary
Police are searching for thieves who stole jewellery valued at £25,000 in a burglary at a Petworth antiques shop.
Chequers Antiques in The Playhouse Gallery, Lombard Street, Petworth was broken into sometime between 5pm on Saturday 26 March and 10.45am on Tuesday 29 March. A suspect or suspects entered through a side window and stole the jewellery.
Police Investigator Martin Butler said: "If you were in Petworth over those days and saw anything suspicious in or around Lombard Street we would like to hear from you.
"We are also keen to hear from anyone who has been offered the jewellery. If you recognise any of it from the photos we are issuing, please call us.
"The items stolen included a number of gold rings with precious stones, a silver snuff box engraved with Russian writing and coat of arms and two pairs of gold cufflinks.
"You can contact us via email@example.com or call 101, quoting serial 436 of 29/03. You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 (www.crimestoppers-org.uk)."
Nationwide appeal after £100k ornaments stolen
The burglary happened between Thursday 10 March and Saturday 12 March in Little Aston.
The stolen ornaments included Capodimonte pieces such as The Last Supper worth £6,000, Cheats by Bruno Merli valued at £1,000, and Michael Angelo valued at £1,750
Romania, among the countries through which art works stolen by the Islamic State get to Europe
'Valuable' artworks found three years after Kiltullagh church theft
They were taken from the Church of St Peter and St Paul in Kiltullagh, County Galway in June 2013.
Police found them in good condition during a search of wasteland in Edenderry, County Offally, on Tuesday.
The were taken away for forensic examination.
No-one was arrested over the theft.
Antiques stolen in Steyning burglary
Police are investigating a burglary in Steyning in which valuable antiques were stolen.
Between 6.20pm and 9.45pm on Monday 14 March a house was broken into in Cripps Lane, Steyning, and antiques, mainly silver, were stolen with a total estimated value of about £50,000.
Due to the large amount it is likely that the suspects have used a vehicle, and it is believed that two blue plastic basins, which also disappeared from the house, were used to carry away at least some of the items.
Some 27 items were taken, including a large number of silver items from the George III and IV periods, a Regency period bracket clock worth £5500, and a bronze bust of William IV, circa 1830, valued at £3000.
Ellie Mannan, Investigating Officer from the West Sussex Priority Crime Team said; "If anyone saw anything suspicious in Steyning that evening, or has any information about this burglary, please contact us by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org or phone 101 quoting serial 1503 of 14/03.
"You can also contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111."
THIRTEEN members of the criminal gang known as the “Rathkeale Rovers” have been jailed for almost seven years for plotting to steal Rhino horns and museum artefacts.Seven of a 14 member traveller gang with connections to Ratheale in County Limerick were jailed at Birmingham Crown Court for their parts in a number of break-ins and plotting to steal the rhino horns with an estimated value of €73 million.
Richard Kerry O’Brien, John Cash O’Brien, Danny Flynn, Paul Pammen, Alan Clarke, Daniel Turkey O’Brien and Donald Chi Cheong Wong were sentenced by Judge Murray Creed,
Mr Wong was described in court as a London-based intermediary who would find buyers for the stolen items and made frequent trips to Hong Kong.
Judge Murray Creed heard that although the items stolen in two of the raids were valued at £17 million, police believe buyers would have paid upwards of three times that value on the illegal markets.
The judge said that the plans and the thefts were part of “an extremely sophisticated conspiracy”.
The judge said the operation to “plunder” rhino horn, carved horn and jade items started off on a “small-scale”basis in January 2012 but after initial failures and botched thefts – in one case the burglars forgot where they had hidden their haul – their planning finally paid off.
“It was serious organised crime. This criminal enterprise “involved very high value goods with significant harm caused to victims, both museums and members of the public who would otherwise have viewed the material stolen.
Describing it as a sophisticated enterprise that was both “skilled and persistent,” the judge said that it had spanned England, Scotland and Ireland adding that members of the O’Brien family, based in Rathkeale, had been at the heart of that conspiracy.
Richard “Kerry” O’Brien Jr, (31), of Cambridgeshire and also of Rathkeale, was jailed for five-and-a-half years.
John “Cash” O’Brien, (68), of Fifth Avenue in Wolverhampton in the West Midlands was jailed for five years and three months.
Daniel “Turkey” O’Brien, 45, Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire was jailed for six years and eight months.
Daniel Flynn,45, and also of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire, was jailed for four years despite the judge saying he played a lead role in the enterprise. However his sentence was reduced based on “the fragility of his mental health”.
Donald Wong, (56) with an address in London was described by the judge as “a buyer, seller and valuer” and was jailed for five-and-a-half years.
Paul Pammen, (49), of Alton Gardens in Southend-on-Sea and Alan Clarke, (37) of Melbourne Road in Newham, London, were both jailed for five-and-a-half years each.
John “Kerry” O’Brien, (26), of Orchard Drive, Smithy Fen, Cottenham, Cambridgeshire – but also of Rathkeale, Co Limerick, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Terrence McNamara, of Marquis Street in Belfast, was jailed for four years.
Michael Hegarty (43), also of Orchard Drive in Cottenham, and Rathkeale, was jailed for six-and-a-half years.
Richard Sheridan, (47) of Water Lane in Smithy Fen, was jailed for five and half years.
Patrick Clarke, aged 34, of Melbourne Road, Newham, London, was also jailed for five-and-a-half
Ashley Dad, (35), of Crowther Road in Wolverhampton, was jailed for five years and three months.
The group’s targets included Durham University Oriental Museum, the Norwich Castle Museum in Norfolk, a robbery at Gorringe’s Auction House in East Sussex and a burglary at Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge.
A 14th man had already been convicted and sentenced for his part in the crime, last year.
There is high demand for rhino horns in China, where they are used in highly controversial preparations of traditional Chinese medicine.
In recent years, prices of drinking cups made of sculpted rhinoceros horns also have soared in the Chinese art market.
The Guardian reports. The unidentified men are facing a pretrial hearing. Norwegian media confirmed they have criminal records.
Police spokeswoman Unni Groendal said the authorities believe the men handled the stolen work, but they are not suspected of the 2009 theft from Oslo’s Nyborgs Kunst gallery. The perpetrator stole the work titled Historien, which is valued at over $200,000, after smashing one of the gallery’s windows with a rock.
Munch’s work seems to be popular amongst thieves. Previously, a gunman stole masterpieces The Scream, 1893, and The Madonna, 1893–94, from the Munch Museum in 2004. A different version of The Scream was lifted from Norway’s National Gallery in 1994. In the latter incident, the thieves involved left behind a postcard that read: “Thanks for the poor security.”
All artworks have been recovered.
Valuable Picasso Art Pieces Confirmed Stolen from a German Bank
The Dusseldorf MysteryAccording to Der Spiegel, the news magazine which had first reported about the case, the bank filed an official complaint, and the examination of the scene did reveal that the pieces were stolen. However, the German police ceased the investigation in early 2016. The police spokesperson stated that there was no probable cause found against any certain persons and that not enough evidence had been found. The missing Picasso and other art pieces are listed in the stolen art registry. The Portigon collection has been the focus of the public for years. The stolen artwork was stored in the premises of Portigon AG in Dusseldorf, however, even though the access was regulated by the state-of-the-art insurance system, apparently, more people had managed to access the chip which opened the doors of the vault. Deutsche Welle reports that the artworks had occupied the walls of WestLB before they were stored in the vault, but when the state-owned bank went bankrupt, it was legally succeeded by Portigon AG.
The Ongoing ControversyThe Portigon AG collection was in the public focus back in 2014. Portigon was to sell its valuable collection which included the works of Joseph Beuys, Gerhard Richter, August Macke, and Sigmar Polke, among others. However, the Association of German Art Historians publicly spoke out against the sale, as they feared that the art sales from a state-owned collection could be used as a means of debt repayment. Finally, they came to a mutual agreement and left the multi-million-dollar collection in North Rhine-Westphalia and Portigon agreed to sell the artwork to a state-owned foundation. The stolen collection was estimated to an insurance value of around €1.1 million, which is roughly $1.2 million, however, the market value of these works could go much higher.
What’s Next for Stolen Picasso Art?So, what can we expect to happen next? As we know, this is not the first time that the Picasso art was stolen. We wrote about the now-famous case of the original Picasso painting recovered in an undercover operation in Turkey. We know about the infamous case of the art dealer Yves Bouvier who sold Tête de Femme (1957) and Espagnole à l’eventail (1957) to a Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev. When will these eleven lithographs turn up and where? Will they be sold in the black art market or stored somewhere for a while until the heat dies down? If history really is the life’s teacher, especially when it comes to stolen art, these precious Picasso art pieces will eventually be found and returned to their place, but until then, all we can do is wait and trust that the authorities will do their job conscientiously and that the thieves will not in any way damage the invaluable works. As most news junkies have heard by now, seven of Andy Warhol‘s “iconic” “paintings” of Campbell’s soup cans, estimated as being worth a $500,000 “fortune”, were recently stolen from the Springfield Art Museum in Missouri, which thereby lost some “rare” “masterpieces” of “Pop Art”. I got the images for today’s Pic from the FBI Web site, where a reward of $25,000 is on offer.
Sorry for all the scare quotes in the above paragraph, but they were needed to show how many of the “known facts” in the case are wrong. First of all, despite headlines in mainstream news outlets such as The Guardian, Daily News, and CBS news, the stolen works weren’t paintings at all, but silkscreen prints, and not very rare ones at that: They were produced in an edition of 250. Hardly “ ‘claim to fame’ types of pieces,” which is how the Springfield police described them to The New York Times. That is why they are worth at very most the piddling sum of maybe $30,000 each ($500,000 would the maximum price for a full set of 10, and a broken set would fetch much less). That is, they cost less than you might pay for a piece of zombie abstraction by some kid painter fresh out of grad school.
If the stolen works were really from the series of truly iconic Campbell’s soup paintings that shot the unknown artist to fame in 1962, they’d be worth something like $10 million each — but those canvases will never come up for sale (or, one assumes, for theft) since all 32 of them are safely stowed away in the permanent collection of the Museum of Modern Art in New York.
The stolen prints are utterly different, even in look, from the hand-painted pictures at MoMA, which I’ve written about at rather great length. The prints are slick and hard-edged and quite faithful to the real soup packaging; the original paintings Warhol derived them from have lots of rough edges and weirdnesses, as well as a much more complex, idiosyncratic relationship to their supermarket sources.
The main reason for the difference is that the stolen prints were published in 1968, when Warhol had long since dropped his practice as a Pop artist in favor of underground films and all kinds of experimental art making: He offered to endorse any and every product, and count that as art; he designed rain and snow machines – again, as art. The year the soup-can silkscreens went on the market, Warhol was in fact stuck in a fallow moment and not sure where to head next – and then half-way through that year he was shot, setting his art back even further. Once he recovered, he found a way forward with what he went on to call “business art”, whereby the simple (or not so simple) act of earning money as an artist would be his new medium. His art would be all about commodifying his own hand and brand, and turning them into the latest in American consumer products.
That wasn’t the only kind of art Warhol made for the last two decades of his career; he also turned out old-fashioned wonderful objects. But “business art”, Warhol’s autograph artistic sell-out, was an important part of what he got up to. Artists ever since have been playing Warholian games with the markets that depend on them, and feed them (q.v., “Damien Hirst“ and “Jeff Koons“).
The un-rare soup cans stolen in Springfield may not be masterpieces of Pop Art. They are barely even weak, late examples of that style. But, in their very multiplicity, they are important, quite early examples of the selling of self that Warhol perfected, and that still gives him such currency today. The Springfield soup cans really show Warhol appropriating his own earlier pictures and making good money – and new art – in the process.
Stolen paintings returned
Authorities on Monday unveiled the paintings, all by little-known artists, at the Brera Art Gallery in Milan, where they are currently housed.
The works were among property seized from the Borbone-Parma family after Italy entered World War II, making Luxembourg an enemy state and allowing seizure of properties under wartime law. Many of the family's treasures were recovered by the U.S. military after the war, but not these paintings.
Investigators for the Carabinieri state police unit charged with protecting cultural heritage only recently traced the works to two families in Milan who had inherited them. The works, which have not been valued, are in state custody after no living descendants could be traced.