NEW YORK, NY.- Talk about a surprising discovery. In 2006, a treasure trove of all kinds of art worksome of which has subsequently been identified as stolenwas uncovered in a New York City apartment. In an effort to track down the rightful owners, the FBI and the Public Administrator of New York County have posted pictures of the most important pieces here on the FBI website.
More than 300 works of artpaintings, sketches, sculptures, and other pieces by such artists as Pablo Picasso, John Singleton Copley, Alberto Giacometti, Giorgio Morandi, and Eugene Boudinwere discovered after the death of the apartments occupant, William M.V. Kingsland.
Kingsland was well known in New York Citys art circles as an engaging and intelligent connoisseur of art, books, architecture, and genealogy. But when he died, he left no will
and no apparent heirs to claim the floor-to-ceiling stacks of paintings and art works crammed into his one-bedroom apartment.
Turns out Kingsland was a pretty secretive guydespite having many acquaintances, very few people had ever been inside his residence. In conversations with friends, he was often evasive about his early years and his family. And, as reported by the media not long after his death, William Kingsland wasnt even his given namehe was born Melvyn Kohn and spent his early years in the Bronx before legally changing his name to Kingsland. He thought it had a more literary sound to it and would help him gain acceptance among Manhattans upper crust.
A surprising discovery. After Kingslands death, New York Public Administrator Ethel Griffin hired two auction housesChristies and Stair Galleriesto sell the art. But as Christies researched the pieces to determine their provenance, it discovered some of them had been reported stolen in the 1960s and 1970s and immediately contacted New York Special Agent Jim Wynne, a member of the FBIs Art Crime Team. And after Stair Galleries auctioned off several pieces, one of the buyersan art gallery ownerdiscovered the piece he bought had been reported stolen as well, so he too got in touch with Agent Wynne.
One bizarre side note: A mover hired by the Public Administrators Office to transport the contents of Kingslands apartment to a warehouse was charged for stealing two Picasso sketches each valued at approximately $30,000. And, it turns out that was not the first time those two sketches had been stolen
sometime before they ended up in Kingslands collection they were stolen from a New York art gallery around 1967!
With the cooperation of the Public Administrators Office and the two auction houses, the FBI began investigating Kingslands collection of art and positively identified several works that had been stolen. And the FBI think there are more. But because of the overwhelming size of the collection and the complex and time-consuming nature of provenance investigations, the FBI decided the best and most expeditious course of action was to publicize the art work to the general public.
The FBI needs your help. If you have information on the provenance, acquisition, or ownership of any work of art from the Kingsland collection shown hereor if you want to make a claimplease contact Agent Wynne at (718) 286-7302 or by e-mail at James.Wynne@ic.fbi.gov.