A series of prominent Andy Warhol portraits of 1970’s-era athletes has been stolen from the home of Robert Weisman in Los Angeles earlier this month. It seems the thieves knew what they were looking for, as the home wasn’t ransacked. A reward of $1m has been offered for information leading to the return of the paintings. As has been noted many times, the theft of these works was probably the easy part, the difficulty will be trying to sell these well-known works.
Why were these works stolen?
Mark Durney wonders why these works were taken:
Were thieves simply enticed by the popularity of Warhol’s athletic icons? Maybe they sought to steal Weisman’s most emotionally important pieces of personal property. Could there be a market of potential buyers who feel dejected by the “absurdly” high asking price for the series in 2007?
There are four other possibilities:
The first, is that a collector admires the piece, and hired a thief to take it for him. We can call this the Dr. No situation. This seems the least likely possibility, but the one that strikes a chord with the imagination. Writers in this subject frequently cite the Dr. No as being responsible for thefts, and I admit it makes for good Bond villains, but there has been no convincing evidence that thsi is why people are stealing rare objects. Another similar possibility which seems far more likely is that an unscrupulous dealer may have a similar piece for sale, and if he can establish some excitement around these kinds of pieces, the price for his clock may go up. This is just wild speculation, and assigns a quite sinister tak to arts and antiquities dealers, a habit far too many writers in this field are fond of doing.
Second, the thief may not have known that the object was so rare as to make its subsequent sale difficult.
Third, the thief may simply be trying to kidnap the object. They could then insure its safe return for a generous reward, or negotiate its return.
Finally, perhaps the market is doing such a poor job of regulating what is and is not legitimate, that it may not be all that difficult to sell this piece after all. This strikes me as the most troubling possibility, but also not very likely.