MANHATTAN U.S. ATTORNEY AND FBI ANNOUNCE RECOVERY OF STOLEN ROBERT MOTHERWELL PAINTING

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Good afternoon. I’m Geoff Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York. Today, I am pleased to announce the return of a long missing painting by Robert Motherwell, one of the city’s favorite artists and one of the most revered American painters of the 20th century. The return of this work untitled at the time of its theft 40 years ago brings some finality to the Dedalus Foundation – a foundation Motherwell himself established for the purpose of bringing Art, research, and Art education, to the public. The painting is to my right. As you can see, it’s quite large, and it’s quite beautiful (laughing). Notice the excellent use of negative space (laughing). It is both provocative, and cerebral. And that’s only the cover! imagine, imagine what is underneath the cover. And we won’t have to imagine for long because at the end of these remarks, we’re going to show this painting to the public for the first time. Some time around 1978, this painting was stolen by an employee of a moving company here in Manhattan. Its wereabouts remained unknown for decades until the son of a moving company employee contacted the Dedalus Foundation regarding the authenticity of the piece, which had been in his father’s possession for at least 30 years, and was inherited by the son upon his father’s death. The Dedalus Foundation established in 1991 maintained photographs of this piece in the hopes that they might some day recover it. Through their diligence, and the readiness and ability of the FBI’s Art Crime Team, this Motherwell painting is finally where it should be: with the Foundation, and for the benefit of the public. Motherwell was among a group of visual artists often referred to as the New York School. Today – today’s return is just the latest service that the FBI’s Art Crime Team has performed for that vanguard movement which was based right here in the city. Over the past several years, the team has debunked false bills of sales and documents from renowned patrons and galleries, and has battled forgeries of Pollock and de Kooning. These cases helped to keep the art world and the public access to fine art, honest and open. And cases like today’s return continue to enrich the culture of our city by bringing lost and stolen works back into the light. It is thanks to the professionalism and integrity of the agents of the FBI’s Art Crime Team that today’s return was completed swiftly and voluntarily by the man who found himself in possession of the piece earlier this year. One reason we hold these events upon the return of missing or stolen artworks is to celebrate these agents’ dedication and proficiency, and to get the word out to the public that the FBI’s team is ready and willing to respond to cases of suspected forgeries and thefts of artwork, and cultural property. Today, dozens of works by Motherwell remain missing. We hope that they remain in the same condition as this piece, and that anyone encountering these pieces in the market brings them to the attention of law enforcement. On behalf of the Office, I thank the FBI, represented here today by our good friend Bill Sweeny, Assistant Director in Charge of the New York Field Office, and Special Agent Chris McKeogh of the Art Crime Team. The FBI does outstanding work on so many matters of importance to the Southern District, and we take pride in our longstanding and continuing relationship with the Art Crime Team. I also want to recognize the excellent work done on this case by AUSA Jonathan Rebold who is in our Money Laundering and Asset Forfeiture Unit. Now, I’d like to invite our friends from the Dedalus Foundation to share this work of art with the public for the first time. (clapping) (clapping) (Geoffrey) Magnificent. (clapping) (Geoffrey) Spectacular. It’s my pleasure now to introduce Bill Sweeny, Assistant Director in Charge of the FBI’s New York Field Office. Bill? (Bill) Thanks Geoff, and thanks for having us here. Uh, Robert Motherwell, as you heard, uh, believed that painting was a conduit for the mind to realize its true self. Unfortunately as we learned today, several of his paintings went missing about 4 decades ago: the 1967 piece on display here is just one of them. During the time the artwork went missing, Motherwell had employed the Santini Moving Company to store and transport his items. The FBI was recently made aware that a son of a man who worked for the company had come forward to try to confirm the authenticity of the painting. Once approached by the FBI, the individual agreed to voluntarily turn it over. We are honored to restore the extraordinary piece of work to the Dedalus Foundation today so that those who appreciate the value of fine art, now come to know the true narrative of the painting’s past, present, and future. We can only hope that anyone who may know the whereabouts of the other paintings – having seen the one here today – will bring them to the attention of law enforcement so they too may also be enjoyed by society, and that society can realize their significance. Today’s ceremony is just one example of our commitment to restore significant arts and antiquities to their rightful owners, and we remind everyone of the important role they serve in preserving the history and the culture of New York City. We’re extremely grateful to the – to the Dedalus Foundation for their cooperation and assistance and also to our partners from the Southern District of New York. Last but not least, I want to extend my thanks to the team that worked this. In particular, Special Agent Chris McKeogh who is to my left. Uh, normally we do not have case agents up here (they often hide in the shadows), so Chris, your work is outstanding across the board. Um, and he is actually the true art expert up here, I am not. Also to his Supervisor Steve Gonzalez, and to a Detective from the Putnam County Sheriff’s Department, Ken Schaffer, uh, for their assistance. Thank you. (clapping). (Geoffrey) I’d, uh, now like to invite, uh, Jack Flam from the, uh, CEO and President of the Dedalus Foundation, to say a few words. (Jack) First, I wanna say how pleased I am – and how all of us are at the Dedalus Foundation – to have this painting back after all these years. Um, Motherwell was a great artist, and also a major cultural figure in the United State in the latter part of the 20th century. And when he, uh, created the Foundation, it was to foster public understanding of modern art and modernism, which we do through various educational programs in support of numerous museums, and other uh, like, institutions. We want to thank especially the U.S. Attorney’s Office for hosting this event, and for everything they’ve done behind the recovery of this painting. We want to thank most especially, um, Chris McKeogh who was the agent on the case who guided us through what was a fairly complicated process to get a painting back by somebody who had come for an authentication, but in fact was being found to be in possession of a stolen work. And I also want to thank in particular, Katy Rogers who is, uh, over here, who is Dedalus Foundation’s Programs, uh, Director, and the Director of the Robert Motherwell Catalogue Raisonne Project, for the wonderful work she did in researching the painting so that we could ascertain the circumstances of its disappearance, and the work that she did with Chris McKeogh for a, a speedy and clear, and clean recovery. Thank you. (clapping) (clapping) (Geoffrey) Are there any, uh, questions? Yessir. (Aside) Could you provide a little more background on how the son of the moving company employee – how he got on your radar, and (unintelligible) expert? (Geoffrey) Well, it (stutters) It got on our radar because the son who was not involved in any theft – his father worked for the moving company, and is suspected to be, uh, involved in the theft. Uh, the son inherited the piece and actually brought it to the, uh, Dedalus Foundation, uh, to be authenticated. So that’s how it came on our radar. And then the Dedalus Foundation contacted the FBI and our Office, and that’s how we went around – uh, we got, uh, to this point. (Aside) Was he – when he went to the Foundation, was his idea to authenticate with a way to say, here – that you guys can have this? Or authenticate it to be – wondered himself if he had this undiscovered piece that he could – (Geoffrey) Yeah, I – you know, I don’t think that the son, uh, understood that the piece was, uh, stolen at the time that he brought it to the dedalus Foundation. And so no charges here are appropriate because the individual who was probably responsible for the theft is deceased. Any other questions? Yes. (Aside) What will happen to the painting now? (Geoffrey) I’m sorry? (Aside) What will happen to the painting now? (Geoffrey) Well, the painting is gonna go to the Dedalus Foundation, and they will utilize it in their, uh, educational purposes (I’m sure). and maybe put it on loan to some important institutions in the city. That’s really a question for the, the Dedalus Foundation, but I’m sure they’ll make good use of it. Yeah (Aside) Is there an estimated value? (Geoffrey) Uh, I don’t have an estimated value for it. (Aside) Any one of the (unintelligible) other missing paintings and – do you have any sense of, um – how common is it that people are stealing paintings like that? (unintelligible) (Geoffrey) (chuckle) (Aside) How often do you rate artists’ paintings? (Geoffrey) We, we, we – I don’t think we’ve run into a case quite like this one before. Uh, we – our investigation is continuing. (Aside) Was it owned by Dedalus at the time that it was stolen? (Geoffrey) Uh, it was actually stolen, um – and it was owned at the time – by Motherwell, and by virtue of Motherwell’s estate, passed to the Dedalus Foundation. (Aside) How many of Motherwell paintings are there, there missing? (Geoffrey) We, we believe there may be dozens. (Aside) All that’s stolen? (Geoffrey) Yes. (Aside) Do we know where the son was keeping this painting? (Geoffrey) Uh – do we know where the son was keeping the painting? (Bill) Upstate New York. it was – (Geoffrey) At his house? (Bill) In a garage. (Geoffrey) In a garage in Upstate New York. (Aside) When you say dozens, do you think it was under the same circumstances, and (unitelligible)? (Geoffrey) We think so. (Aside) You’re gonna go raid his garage? (Geoffrey) I’m sorry? (Aside) You’re gonna go raid his garage? (Geoffrey) (laughing) I – we’re – the investigation is continuing. Any other – (Aside) (Geoffrey) Maybe we should see the artwork. Let’s go over and – (Aside) Yes, absolutely.

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