The New York Times reported on September 12, 2009 that the theft of 10 silkscreen paintings by Andy Warhol has the Los Angeles Police Department “searching for clues” and “people in the art world scratching their heads.” The paintings were apparently stolen from the West Los Angeles home of Richard L. Weisman, a businessman and prominent collector. A $1 million reward has been offered by Mr. Weisman for information leading to the paintings’ recovery. The stolen works, which consist of paintings of athletes including Muhammad Ali, Chris Evert, Dorothy Hamill, Tom Seaver, Jack Nicklaus and O. J. Simpson, were taken from Mr. Weisman’s dining room.
Curiously, the Times noted that, despite the horrific crime, the paintings were not going to net Mr. Weisman any significant sums of money anytime soon. In 2007, Mr. Weisman’s set of the “Athlete Series” was the subject of an exhibition at Martin Summers Fine Art, a London gallery, where they were for sale as a group for about $28 million but ultimately did not sell. Since that time, the prices of Warhols have fallen. Moreover, the article states that the crime was apparently ill-advised: “art experts found it strange that anyone would walk off with just the ‘Athlete Series’’ because the market is “insular” enough to make the works “untradeable.” The article does not mention, however, that the black market for stolen art remains one of the world’s most profitable illegal industries.