The FBI has just recovered a Crimson Robert Motherwell Painting, which was stolen 40 years ago by a Moving Man.

How could it happen?

Around the 70s, Robert Motherwell employed a moving company to transport his paintings from his old storage unit to the new. However,  somewhere and somehow along the way, dozens of his works went missing. Among them an incredible key series of red and black paintings.

On July 12, at least one of them has returned home:  The Manhattan District Attorney hosted a repatriation ceremony in downtown New York City today to announce the recovery of an untitled abstract painting by the artist that was among those stolen 40 years ago. The painting, which Motherwell created in 1967, will now be exhibited in the headquarters of the Dedalus Foundation, which was established the same year he died to promote the artist’s work and legacy.

The red and black abstract painting was recovered after the son of an employee of the moving company, whose father is now deceased, brought it to the Dedalus Foundation earlier this year in hopes of having it authenticated. Jack Flam, the president and CEO of the Dedalus Foundation, quickly matched the work with images and other records documenting the stolen trove. That’s when also FBI’s art crime team got involved. The unidentified individual, voluntarily agreed to turn it over. The investigation into the rest of the missing Motherwell works is ongoing, officials at the press conference confirmed.

The work is likely worth millions, if we consider recent sales of comparable works by Motherwell: The artist’s auction record, $12.7 million, was set at Phillips just this past May for At Five In the Afternoon (1971). To date, more than 30 works by Motherwell have sold for more than $1 million at auction, according to the artnet Price Database.

“We’re honored to restore this extraordinary piece of art to the Dedalus Foundation today so that those who appreciate the value of fine art will now come to know the true narrative of the painting’s past present and future,” Sweeney said. “We can only hope that anyone who may know the whereabouts of the other paintings will bring them to the attention of law enforcement so they too might be enjoyed by society.”

Flam of the Dedalus Foundation thanked the FBI and attorney’s office and reiterated how pleased the foundation is to finally have its hands on the work, which has never been shown publicly.

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