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Woman-Ochre, a painting stolen in broad daylight, returns on display at Getty Museum

Woman-Ochre, the stolen painting of Willem de Kooning will return to public view at the Getty Center in Los Angeles in the exhibition, Conserving de Kooning: Theft and Recovery, reported The Art Newspaper. The painting was removed from its frame and stolen from the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA). The painting is coming back for public viewing after 30 years of its theft.

The heist happened on Thanksgiving Day in 1985, when a couple successfully cut the painting from its frame, tore it from its backing and rolled it up before leaving the museum in broad daylight at the University of Arizona Museum of Art.


The Art Newspaper reported that according to a press release from Getty in August 2017, David Van Auker, Buck Burns and Rick Johnson purchased the painting from an estate of the deceased couple to display the work in their store without the knowledge of its authenticity. After UAMA in coordination with Federal Bureau of Investigation began to publicize the 30th anniversary of the theft, Van Auker contacted the UAMA after his research on his purchase.

Ulrich Birkmaier, senior painting conservator at the Getty Museum was quoted by The Art Newspaper “The brutal way in which it was ripped from its lining caused severe paint flaking and tears. To bring a painting from such dire condition to a place where it can now be safely exhibited is an immense achievement.” The Getty is going to partner with the University of Arizona in the conservation work of Woman-Ochre.

The painting will be displayed at the Getty Museum from June 7 to August 28 and later will return to the University of Arizona in the fall of 2022. The Thief Collector, a documentary based on the events of the theft and retrieval of the painting will release in 2022, directed by Allison Otto.

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