Treasured de Kooning painting ready for display for first time since 1985 theft in Arizona

May 28, 2022, 5:45 AM

(Photos via Getty Museum)...

(Photos via Getty Museum)

(Photos via Getty Museum)

PHOENIX – A Los Angeles museum has repaired a treasured painting by abstract expressionist Willem de Kooning and will soon display it for the first time since it was stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art nearly 40 years ago.

Woman-Ochre” will be the focus of the Getty Museum exhibition called “Conserving de Kooning: Theft and Recovery” from June 7 to Aug. 28.

The mid-1950s oil-on-canvas work was cut from its frame and stolen from the UAMA on Nov. 29, 1985.

It turned up at an estate sale in the small western New Mexico town of Cliff in August 2017 and was purchased along with other items by an antiques dealer, who wasn’t aware of the painting’s origin.

The dealer researched it after being tipped off by customers and returned it to the Tucson museum, which originally received it as a donation in 1958.

Nobody was ever arrested for the theft.

UAMA officials turned to experts at the Getty Museum to repair the damaged artwork.

“The painting came to us in very poor shape. The brutal way in which it was ripped from its lining caused severe paint flaking and tears, not to mention the damage caused by the blade that was used to slice it from its frame,” Ulrich Birkmaier, the Getty’s senior paintings conservator, said a press release.

“To bring a painting from such dire condition to a place where it can now be safely exhibited is an immense achievement.”

“Woman-Ochre” will return to Tucson after the Getty exhibition and is scheduled be displayed at UAMA from Oct. 8 of this year to May 20, 2023.

“’Woman-Ochre’ is a crown jewel in the collection of the University of Arizona Museum of Art, and we can’t wait to have it back in our galleries this fall,” Andrew Schulz, the school’s vice president for the arts, said in the release.

“In the meantime, we very much look forward to the upcoming exhibition at the Getty and the opportunity to share this extraordinary work — and its equally extraordinary story — with a broad audience.”

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Treasured de Kooning painting ready for display for first time since 1985 theft in Arizona