crime

Renoir stolen in Tokyo in 2000 auctioned in London

21 Comments

The National Police Agency confirmed Tuesday that a Pierre-Auguste Renoir oil painting, stolen from a private residence in Tokyo's Setagaya Ward 13 years ago, was auctioned by Sotheby's in London earlier this year.

According to Fuji TV, the unidentified Japanese owner contacted police after discovering that Sotheby’s had sold his stolen piece, titled "Madame Valtat," for around 1.05 million pounds (150 million yen) in February. Police say the oil painting, completed and signed by Renoir in 1903, was stolen along with five other works from the Tokyo man’s home, in August 2000. A work by Marc Chagall and four other works of art were also among the haul, the NPA reported.

Sotheby's, which keeps all client information confidential, told the NPA that the work had not appeared on an international database of lost or stolen artwork, Fuji TV reported. As a result, the auction was allowed to proceed.

Police say they are currently investigating why the painting was not listed in the stolen items database and how it was transported out of Japan.

Sotheby's has so far not disclosed who put the painting up for auction or who bought it in February.

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21 Comments
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Police say they are currently investigating why the painting was not listed in the stolen items database

Meaning they will look at each other blankly, shrug and say "I thought you put it on there" and hope the matter is forgotten about......again

12 ( +14 / -2 )

Police say they are currently investigating why the painting was not listed in the stolen items database and how it was transported out of Japan.

Because Japanese police are idiots and they don't think beyond their koban seat. If I was the owner I would be suing the police because of their stupidity.

7 ( +12 / -5 )

i can imagine that old dude just scouring the auction sites for the past 13 years waiting for that painting to pop up. good on him.

9 ( +10 / -1 )

Sounds like the mafia/yakuza are behind those kinds of stuff. Easy money.

2 ( +5 / -3 )

"Sotheby’s, which keeps all client information confidential, told the NPA that the work had not appeared on an international database of lost or stolen artwork, Fuji TV reported. As a result, the auction was allowed to proceed."

How on earth is this allowed, when it is known a crime was committed? If no crime, I can understand, but when did Sotheby's become an organization that does not need to adhere to regular laws?

-7 ( +6 / -13 )

To report a theft internationally, the use of a computer is required. Apparently this proved an obstacle to solving this particular crime....shogani.

6 ( +8 / -2 )

Why wasn't the theft flashed around the world so that sales like this don't happen? Did the original owner receive an insurance payout? If not surely they still own it?

6 ( +6 / -0 )

Sotheby’s, which keeps all client information confidential, told the NPA that the work had not appeared on an international database of lost or stolen artwork

I don't believe them, Or I don't believe the Japanese owner. Not about a Renoir. The painter has retired and the full list has been known for many years. There are art specialists that work full time on Renoir and could have told them the status of this painting, to both. If Sotheby's researched, they necessarily found this Japanese guy owned it in year 2000 and that the painting had not been sold to whoever brought it to them. OR the painting stolen in Japan was a fake, and Sotheby's is the original and it never was in Japan. It's not rare for paintings acquired by Japanese new riches during the bubble. The buyers never got some expert checking. I think insurances didn't require that either, they only asked the receipt of the sale. When their heirs try to resell, they get the bad surprise to discover their painting is also... in Orsay Museum or at the Guggenheim Center.

1 ( +4 / -3 )

Well, look on the bright side, the real owner now knows that Sotheby's knows the identity of the current holder of the paintings. He simply needs to contact Sotheby's, ask for the current holder's identity and go and pick them up. While Sotheby's did check the international list they're still guilty of receiving stolen property, as is the current holder.

As for the J-cops... well, they don't surprise me anymore. Not the world's most competent police force.

2 ( +4 / -2 )

@ Frungy: Is there any competent police force on this planet?

-1 ( +3 / -4 )

Police say they are currently investigating why the painting was not listed in the stolen items database and how it was transported out of Japan.

How about just as carry on baggage? Many years ago I had bought a painting for a friend of mine and had it gift wrapped and had no issues or whatsoever taken it on board.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Cos: I don't believe them, Or I don't believe the Japanese owner. Not about a Renoir.

+1! No way could there have been doubt about the ownership of a Renior.

-1 ( +1 / -2 )

Southbey's and Christies have been known to be corrupt for years. Time to shut those rag shops down, they push the prices and turn art into a comodity with no concern for ethics.

-1 ( +2 / -3 )

smithinjapan:

I have no idea why your comment got so many thumbs-down. If a crime was involved, then Sotheby's should be required by law to divulge that information or be taken to court.

0 ( +5 / -5 )

The auction happened months ago. Since the are was never report stolen, put on the international list, Sotheby's would have no reason not to auction it. As for getting information from Sotheby's, I would think the NPA would have to go through Scotland Yard since the auction happen in London. The bigger question is why wasn't put in on the International list of stolen or lost items. What about the other item stolen at the same time? Are they in the database?

5 ( +5 / -0 )

So many of what is auctioned are stolen property from one time or another in history.....

-2 ( +0 / -2 )

Maybe the International list is in English and the Jcops didn't want to bother with it.

3 ( +3 / -0 )

+1! No way could there have been doubt about the ownership of a Renior.

Renoir was particularly prolific, painting nearly 6000 works in his life, so a painting by him would not be in the league of Van Gogh who left a smaller portfolio, the ownership of which is likely to be easier to identify.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

I have no idea why your comment got so many thumbs-down. If a crime was involved, then Sotheby's should be required by law to divulge that information or be taken to court.

The painting wasn't on any international list, the article states that clearly. Now if Sotherbys had contacted Setagaya koban, as any respectable sales house would have done, they may not have proceeded with the sale.

Another thing not stated, insurance. Incompetent J police not contacting / being able to contact international authorities I can understand, but any insurance company who paid out after that theft most certainly would. No insurance payout? J owner had no insurance for paintings of that value? Was there really a theft to begin with?.........

3 ( +3 / -0 )

Especially since the theft wasn't reported, because it didn't occur in Britain, neither Sotheby's or the new owner are legally acquired to return it. And even more so if the buyer is the British Museum; nothing leaves it by law.

0 ( +1 / -1 )

One question everyone has overlooked is, was the J-police in on the theft and that is why it was neverr report internatinally as stolen?

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

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