This was not your standard art theft. There was no break-in, no guards tied to a chair, no high speed chases and no laser beams from the ceiling. What Brigham Young University Museum had to contend with was a Collections Manager who decided to help himself to hundreds of paintings that were part of the museum’s collection. It started some time in the early 1970’s and continued surreptiously over a period of fifteen years until the Collections Manager was caught and prosecuted in 1987.
The missing works were registered with The International Foundation for Art Research and transferred to The Art Loss Register when the ALR was formed in the U.K. in 1991. With the help of The Art Loss Register, the museum hopes it will recover much of the missing artwork.
Recently, Mahonri Young’s Port Washington Point, Long Island, NY was located by the ALR in their routine search of Christie’s auction catalogs. The ALR searches auction houses, dealers, museums, and on-line auctions for stolen or missing artwork and objects.
The Young painting was matched by the ALR team as one of the stolen BYU pictures and the recovery process was underway. Christie’s cooperated with the ALR and pulled the piece from the sale. As is often the case, Christie’s consignor turned out to be a good faith purchaser (from Boca Raton, Florida) who was simply selling part of her collection to make room for some new acquisitions. She had purchased the piece from a dealer many years earlier.
The consignor was made aware of US law and came to understand that even though she purchased the painting in good faith, she did not necessarily have good title. After extensive negotiations with The Art Loss Register’s New York recovery specialist, the work was returned to Brigham Young University after a 30 year absence. The ALR was able to get the consignor back her purchase price which helped to make up for the loss of the picture.
Chris Marinello, the Executive Director and General Counsel in the ALR’s New York office did much of the recovery work. “We could not have accomplished this without the fantastic efforts of the BYU University police department. Thirty years after the theft and they still had detailed records and recollections that helped to resolve this matter”.
Marinello says that this case shows the strength of the ALR database. “It doesn’t matter if you were a recent victim of art theft or whether it happened fifty years ago. The key is to contact the ALR and get your item registered so we have a chance to find it. “Our art recovery service can save potential claimants thousands of dollars in legal fees”. “I can’t tell you how many times I have seen people give more money to their lawyers than the value of their artwork”.
Museums, dealers, and collectors alike can register stolen items with The Art Loss Register using their new web based platform at www.artloss.com.
The Art Loss Register maintains offices in London, New York, Amsterdam, Cologne, Paris and New Delhi.