In November 1985, an unknown man and woman entered the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA) in Tucson.
She distracted a security guard while he cut Willem de Kooning’s Woman-Ochre from its frame and tucked it under his clothes.
The oil painting disappeared for the next 32 years.
De Kooning’s work is valuable
Woman-Ochre, part of the Dutch-American expressionist’s Woman series, was worth $400k when donated to the museum in 1958. Today, it’s worth
In 2016, entertainment mogul David Geffen
But experts say famous art is hard to fence. And as James Ratcliffe — director of stolen art database Art Loss Register —
Or can you?
In 2017, an antique store
Clues point to Jerry and Rita Alter, two retired teachers, stealing the painting while visiting relatives, then hanging it on their bedroom wall until they died.
Why? No one knows, but Jerry Alter once
The recovered painting needed help
- Used a microscope to reattach areas where paint had lifted or flaked
- Removed the varnishes
- Filled in lost paint with reversible conservation pigments (which can be removed if needed)
- Reunited the painting with its cut canvas
Woman-Ochre is currently on display at the Getty Museum, its first public exhibition since the heist, and will return to the UAMA this fall.
BTW: If this story fascinated you, the Alters are the subject of the 2022 documentary
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