Second stolen artwork recovered in Canada within weeks
Date: 27 Mar 2010 | | Views: 2162
Bronze Henry Moore sculpture lifted from New York gallery in 2001 uncovered in Toronto
For the second time this month, a Canadian gallery has recovered an art work stolen years ago from a New York gallery.
On Thursday, Miriam Shiell Fine Art in Toronto reported that a small bronze by the English sculptor Henry Moore (1898-1996) it had agreed to inspect for possible sale had been stolen in 2001 from an unnamed New York gallery. The 1975 sculpture, Three Piece Reclining Figure: Maquette No. 4, was given to proprietor Miriam Shiell last week by an unidentified young man from Toronto who'd first approached her two or three weeks earlier.
“He had no documentation,” Ms. Shiell said in a brief interview. “He supposedly inherited [the sculpture],” which is valued at about $80,000 (U.S.).“ It's been nine or 10 years since the thing was stolen; he may have been unaware of that. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt. ”
— Art dealer Miriam Shiell
Subsequent checks with the Art Loss Register and the Henry Moore Foundation, both based in Britain, revealed that the Moore, which Ms. Shiell characterized as “a relatively minor work,” had gone missing in New York nine years earlier.
Earlier in the week, the U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement office in Manhattan announced that, thanks to the diligence of a Montreal gallery owner, it had returned a small 1930 painting by the Swiss-German master Paul Klee (1879-1940) to the Art Loss Register, which has listings of more than 350,000 stolen art works in its database.
The ALR was established in 1991 in London as a partnership of the major international auction houses (including Sotheby's and Christie's), art trade organizations, insurers and the not-for-profit International Foundation for Art Research.
Portrait in the Garden, valued at $100,000 (U.S.), had been offered for purchase to the Montrealer, Robert Landau, while the gallery owner was attending the Art Basel Miami Beach fair last December. Mr. Landau persuaded the prospective seller, an unnamed Florida man, to send the painting for inspection to his Montreal office, on the understanding that Mr. Landau would buy the work, a gouache on paper, if it was deemed authentic. The painting was authentic – but a check with the Art Loss Register determined it had been stolen in 1989 from New York's Marlborough Gallery.
The ALR is the registered owner of the painting and the broker for the insurance company, Lloyd's of London, that paid Marlborough's claim after the Klee was stolen. There are reports it will be sold this year at auction at Christie's. But a press officer with Christie's New York said Wednesday: “At this time we can't confirm anything at all.”
No one has been arrested in either the Montreal or Toronto case and investigations are ongoing. It's not uncommon for stolen art to pass through several hands before it's recovered. As Ms. Shiell observed, her would-be consignor “may have obtained his sculpture quite legitimately. After all, it's been nine or 10 years since the thing was stolen; he may have been unaware of that. Let's give him the benefit of the doubt.”