Meg Hagyard, interim director of the University of Arizona Museum of Art, and Olivia Miller, curator of exhibitions, are thrilled that a valuable painting that was stolen from the museum in 1985 has been recovered. Tom Tingle/azcentral.com
New Mexico antique-store owner says he bought it as part of estate sale; preliminary authentication is complete, UA says.
The abstract painting of a nude woman rested inside an antiques shop in Silver City, New Mexico.
The shop owner had picked it up in an estate sale and intended to hang it in his guesthouse. He kept it at the store, just for the day.
But visitors noticed.
“Is that a real de Kooning?” one visitor asked.
Three others had the same question.
The owner, David Van Auker, tapped “de Kooning” into his internet browser. Up popped an azcentral.com article that led him to report the discovery of the artwork to authorities.
Preliminary authentication shows the painting is “Woman-Ochre,” a Willem de Kooning masterpiece looted in a daring heist 31 years ago from the University of Arizona Museum of Art in Tucson, museum officials said this week.
A similar painting by de Kooning in the same series sold for $137.5 million a decade ago.
UA officials brought the painting back to Tucson on Aug. 7. The FBI has an “active and ongoing investigation,” said Glenn Milnor, a spokesman for the FBI Phoenix Field Office. The FBI declined an interview request.
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