The University Record, January 30, 1996

DPS, FBI team up to recover art stolen 30 years ago

Sketches by Pablo Picasso and Henry Moore, stolen from a U-M traveling exhibit almost 30 years ago, were recovered in Los Angeles Jan. 24. The pieces were recovered by the Los Angeles office of the FBI, with assistance from the Department of Public Safety (DPS) and the Ann Arbor office of the FBI, said Capt. James Smiley, DPS.

Smiley said it is unclear when the sketch and drawing will be returned to the U-M. The FBI in Los Angeles currently has possession of the artwork.

"The Museum is in every way delighted to have these two wonderful works of art back with us again after so many years," said Bill Hennessey, Museum of Art director. "We will look forward to being able to share them with our visitors, and we are grateful to the FBI and DPS for their prompt action and efficient handling of the case."

Smiley said police suspected they had a lead on the stolen artwork after Annette Dixon, Museum of Art's curator of Western art, learned from the Henry Moore Foundation in England that a San Francisco auctioneer had called on behalf of a client requesting authentication of the Moore work. Dixon informed the Museum's security officer, Sam Ferraro, who informed DPS of the request.

According to Smiley, Moore's 1929 work, "Study of a Seated Figure," and Picasso's 1919 work, "Sketches from a Window," were stolen from an exhibit on loan to Delta College in Bay County, Mich., in the summer of 1967. The Bay County Sheriff, the Michigan State Police and the FBI worked on the case, but had no leads at the time.

Smiley said an investigation remains open.

The Picasso ink drawing was made in Saint-Raphael and relates to several of his watercolors from that time, Dixon said. The 11 small sketches on the sheet show views from a window and fragments of a room---quick notes of motifs that recur in the artist's paintings.

Dixon said the Moore ink and wash drawing is an early example of the artist's exploration of the single figure, and may be a working project for a sculpture.

Both works were stolen while on display (June 19-July 14, 1967) at Delta College in a show originally titled "Thirty Contemporary Drawings." After the theft, the show was retitled "Twenty-eight Contemporary Drawings." The show, containing only objects from the Museum of Art, was organized, circulated and sent out again by the Michigan State Council for the Arts.