His 'Cool' Find at Estate Sale Was a Stolen Masterpiece

Claudine Rigal
Août 13, 2017

"In 2006, another de Kooning painting in the series, sold for $137.5 million".

In 2016, the museum told Tucson News Now a staff member was followed into the museum by a young man and older woman.

The lost wallet was Willem de Kooning's "Woman-Ochre", stolen in 1985 from the University of Arizona Museum of Art. He checked the gallery, found the painting had been cut out of the frame, and ran back to the entrance in time to see the couple drive off in a rust-colored auto.

That dream finally came true when furniture and antique dealer David Van Auker called the museum from Silver City, N.M. Marketing Manager Gina Compitello-Moore said Auker bought the painting at an estate sale and began researching it when he read an article about the heist that depicted an identical looking piece. Preliminary authentication confirms it is the well-documented painting.

The painting retrieved from New Mexico was preliminarily authenticated by the world-renowned conservator and professor Nancy Odegaard of the Arizona State Museum. We had the original frame and remnants, and we were able to match the painting with that.

Meg Hagyard, the museum's interim director, was quoted as saying: "The best way I can think to describe it is that it's sort of like Cinderella's glass slipper". Having both the collection and that gift complete once again is something that we've always hoped for.

Miller said it really stood out to her when Van Auker mentioned damaging lines across the canvas that made it look as if it had been rolled up. "I'm so grateful that I got to be a part of it". "First, they stole an important signature painting from the University's museum collection".

"It's a great day for the University of Arizona and great news for the art world and people who care about public art", UA President Robert C. Robbins said.

One of the officers who responded to the theft in 1985 was Brian Seastone, who is now the chief of the University of Arizona Police Department. "I was choked up", he said. "There's this sense of relief and happiness". It's back, it's home, it's where it should be. From that moment on, we knew we had it.

The University of Arizona Museum of Art offers a year-round schedule of exhibitions, programming, and events created to incite conversations related to the history and meaning of the visual arts. Highlights include the "Altarpiece From Ciudad Rodrigo", "The Visitation" by the Master of the Catholic Kings, Jackson Pollock's "Number 20", Mark Rothko's "Green on Blue (Earth-Green and White)" and "Red Canna" by Georgia O'Keeffe. More information about the museum, its exhibitions, programming, and events can be found here.

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