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Museum gets back stolen piece by modern master 30 years later

Museum gets back stolen piece by modern master 30 years later
From CBC - August 12, 2017

More than three decades after thieves made off with a valuable painting from the University of Arizona Museum of Art, officials say they have recovered the long sought piece from an antique dealer in New Mexico.

Curators at the museum that was home to Willem de Kooning's Woman-Ochrespent years hoping to get it back after two people stole the painting the day after American Thanksgiving in 1985.

That dream finally came true when furniture and antique dealer David Van Auker called the museum from Silver City, N.M.

Estate sale discovery

Marketing Manager Gina Compitello-Moore said Auker bought the painting at an estate sale and later began researching it when he read an article about the heist that depicted an identical looking piece.

"When I got the phone call, this is literally the phone call I have been dreaming ofis somebody calling my phone and saying I think I have your stolen painting and that's what he said," museum curator Olivia Miller said.

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.

Miller said a former museum curator was in utter disbelief and elated when she told her the painting was recovered.

The oil painting by the Dutch-American abstract expressionist is one in an iconic series by de Kooning that explores the figure of a woman.

The piece features de Kooning's signature broad paint strokes, depicting various colours across the female body.

Painting cut out of frame in heist

Authenticating the piece

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