WELLESLEY.- As many of you will recall, last November I informed the community that in the course of searching the collections of the Davis Museum and Cultural Center, museum staff discovered that the painting, Woman and Child, by Fernand Leger (French, 1881-1955), painted in 1921, was missing. The painting was reported as missing to law enforcement authorities and an investigation began as soon as the discovery was made. The investigation is ongoing and, to date, has not determined what happened to the painting or its current whereabouts. Information on the Leger was placed on the Art Loss Register shortly after the work was found to be missing. The painting was given to the museum in 1954 after being purchased from the Sidney Janis Gallery by John McAndrew, a former faculty member of the college and former director of the Colleges museum.
The Leger, along with 31 other works from the collection, had been loaned to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art for exhibition. These works, which were returned to the Davis Museum in April of 2007, were kept in their crates, in the museums fifth floor galleries, while a museum construction project was completed. Several of these works were included in the first phase of the reinstallation of the collections, which opened in the fall of 2007. The Leger was discovered to be missing in November of that year, when it was requested for digitization as part of the museums program to digitize all of its holdings. All other works have been accounted for.
In light of this development, we employed an external audit firm with in-depth experience regarding museum operations to conduct a review of the museums existing internal controls and management and to assess risk. The museum is making adjustments to its policies and procedures to enhance controls regarding museum operations on a defined timeline; these measures are being overseen by the Audit Committee of the Board of Trustees and have been shared with the full Board of Trustees as appropriate. This issue remains a high priority for me. The loss of this valuable and irreplaceable painting has saddened the entire community, and we still hope it will be found. We have taken strong measures to prevent any repetition of this type of event. By October we will have in place new procedures and controls and a management system that ensures that we, and the broader art community, can be confident of our ability to protect art.