The Art Loss Register (‘ALR’) is pleased to announce the recovery of over 400 works of art by celebrated Dutch artist Karel Appel. The collection, which was lost in transit almost ten years ago, was identified with a U.K. logistics company just before Christmas 2011.
The crate of eight boxes containing drawings, sketches, notebooks and mixed media works by the artist went missing in December 2002. The artist had sent the completed works to the newly created Karel Appel Foundation (“Foundation”) in Amsterdam. The loss was immediately reported to law enforcement and the ALR, who registered the works on their database of stolen, looted, and missing artwork.
The Foundation, which was established in 1999, is charged with preserving the Appel archive, promoting public awareness of the artist’s oeuvre and supervising publication of the artist’s catalogue raisonné.
In December 2011, the Foundation and the ALR were contacted by UK auction house Bonhams, who were undertaking due diligence on a number of unknown Appel works. A box of 34 Appel drawings had been sent for valuation with a view to potential consignment by the UK based storage and logistics company. The company claimed the box was one of eight found inside a warehouse they had purchased years earlier. The company had no documentation concerning the boxes and it was not until a warehouse employee researched ‘Karel Appel’, whose notes and signatures adorn most of the works, that they realised the boxes were worth more than mere “salvage.”
The ALR was appointed to represent the heirs of Karel Appel and the Foundation, who quickly confirmed their interest in recovering the works. After five weeks of intense negotiation with the logistics company and their solicitor, a settlement was finally reached with the company agreeing to release their claim to the artwork.
Christopher A. Marinello, a lawyer and chief negotiator for the Art Loss Register commented:
“This case highlights the responsibility of companies who store and transport works of art. With last year’s BBC statistics suggesting that over 90% of UK museum collections are kept in storage, the concept of positive registration and due diligence should form part of logistics companies’ standard operating procedures. Logistics companies store and move millions of pounds worth of art every year but rarely check with the ALR. Highly secure, fine art storage facilities have opened worldwide, from New York to Singapore. These storage complexes are the new Swiss bank vaults and no one but the proprietors know what is going in and out of there. While the owners of such facilities are staunchly opposed to having stolen art on their premises, they are reluctant to perform due diligence searching, for fear that they will lose business to competitors who may guarantee a more discrete service. Unless and until fine art storage and shipping companies unite and agree to police themselves, it may be necessary to push for legislation requiring the industry to become more transparent.”
Recovered:‘Phantasmagoria No. 162’ Karel Appel
Acrylic and oil stick over print
In February 2012 the artist’s widow, Harriet Appel, identified the recovered works and oversaw their return to the Foundation. Mrs. Appel expressed her gratitude to the parties involved stating:
“I am extremely happy that the Karel Appel Foundation have recovered the lost drawings and am impressed by the successful and professional way in which this case was handled by the ALR”
A spokesperson for the Foundation added:
“We are delighted to have received the missing drawings…they will help us to establish a more correct and complete Catalogue Raisonné of the [artist’s] works on paper.”
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