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- angela werstine, artist
October 17, 2012
A painting by American artist Roy Lichtenstein of a large electric cord, valued at some $4 million, is back with its rightful owner 42 years after it vanished while in the hands of an art restorer.
Officials from the FBI and the U.S. attorney's office in Manhattan handed the work over to a smiling Barbara Bertozzi Castelli on Tuesday, ending a mystery that began in 1970 when Castelli's late husband, art dealer Leo Castelli, sent the painting out for cleaning. Castelli had acquired the painting in the 1960s for about $750 and had displayed it at his New York City gallery. He died in 1999, never knowing what became of the work.
To the untrained eye, the painting of a black electric cord looks like ... well, a black electric cord. Those familiar with the work of Lichtenstein, the pop artist who lived from 1923 to 1997, know better. So when someone emailed a picture of the painting to Manhattan art dealer James Goodman in July with an offer to sell it, he alerted the Roy Lichtenstein Foundation.
"As soon as I saw the image, I knew what it was," Goodman said, according to Bloomberg news.
The Foundation had been searching for the painting for decades and in 2006, it featured "Electric Cord" on its annual holiday card in hopes that would help solve the mystery. Goodman said he had remembered that card, and he and representatives of the Lichtenstein Foundation went to the storage facility where the painting was housed to confirm its authenticity.
Authorities then took possession of the painting, which measures 28 by 17 inches. How exactly it ended up in the storage facility remains a bit of a mystery but includes an adventure in a gallery in Bogota, Colombia. The gallery said it had received the painting on consignment from Sally Goldreyer, the widow of the art restorer originally hired by Castelli to clean it. His name was Daniel Goldreyer, and he died in 2009.
Sally Goldreyer has told authorities that the painting was stashed in a locked box of one of her late husband's employees and that she was unaware it was missing until she spotted a notice about it on the Internet. She agreed to relinquish all rights to the work and to hand it over to Castelli, who stood happily next to the painting at a news conference Tuesday.
Castelli, who married Leo Castelli in 1995, said she had never before seen the painting but had heard about it. "I actually can tell you that Leo spoke on several occasions to me about this painting," said Castelli. "He remembered it and didn't know where it had gone."
She said she may display it at home.
via the los angeles times