The Case of the Missing Warhols


I remember my initial reaction--you had a painting of OJ Simpson in your home? Now, I've been a bit more thoughtful:

Richard L. Weisman, the noted art collector who made news recently when he decided to forgo a multimillion-dollar insurance policy for stolen art, had some critical words for the LAPD detectives investigating his case.

“Maybe if they would do their job … and spent some time looking for the art instead of being accusatory of the person who had it stolen, they might actually find it,” Weisman said in an interview last weekend.

The art world was set abuzz in early September with word that a series of original works by Pop Art icon Andy Warhol had been stolen from the walls of Weisman’s home on Los Angeles' Westside.

None of the other expensive artwork hanging on adjoining walls was disturbed, and there was no sign of forced entry into the home. In all, 11 brightly colored silk-screen paintings were gone -- 10 portraits of famous athletes and one of Weisman, 69, who was a friend of Warhol's and commissioned the series in the late 1970s. 

Some experts estimated each piece to be worth at least $1 million. Then, last week, the Seattle Times confirmed with Weisman that he had canceled the $25-million insurance policy covering the Warhols. LAPD Det. Mark Sommer, who makes up half of the department’s two-man art theft detail, called the turn of events “curious” in an interview with the Los Angeles Times, saying that “we’d like to talk to him about it."

I can't say that I blame Mr. Weisman for not wanting to have the LAPD go through his affairs, trying to blame the victim and burn through overtime so that they can find a way not to figure out who stole the artwork. Someone targeted the collection and went for it, en masse, and the logical place to look to is anyone with complete collections of seminal works by Andy Warhol, which would be a select few bigwigs. This was a crime of covetousness, not so much monetary gain or greed, because no one can sell the works now.

By waiving the insurance policy payout, perhaps Mr. Weisman is sending a message to whoever stole the artwork--you will NOT have a clear conscience because the art meant more to me than the money. The sentimental value alone must be great. That tells me that he suspects a noted Warhol collector targeted him, and he does not want to assuage that person's guilt by taking the payout.
Really, sometimes people do things for a darned good reason, not so much because they are low and cheap.

This is not the way you want your possessions to end up being revealed to the public. Privacy does matter, and perhaps Mr. Weisman simply wants to keep certain other aspects of his life private, and that doesn't necessarily mean anything bad.