Nine Warhol prints of Jewish icons including Sigmund Freud and Gertrude Stein have gone missing from the walls of a movie editing studio in Los Angeles. The works are thought to be valued at $350,000, or £226,854 each, have been surreptitiously replaced by an industrious individual who had reportedly created fakes to replace the originals versions of the works and secretly installed the new works in place of the originals, according to TMZ.
This particular art crime only came to light when a member of the business took the works to a framer who realised that the works were indeed fake, leading to a police investigation. An image of a missing signed screen print, Portrait of George Gershwin (1980), was recently posted on the LAPD Art Theft Detail page, along with eight other missing works that are also listed.
As well as the Pop Art portraits of Freud, Gershwin, and Stein, the 1980 series also features Sarah Bernhardt, Louis Brandeis, Martin Buber, Albert Einstein, Franz Kafka, the Marx Brothers, and Golda Meir. Warhol referred to the series as his “Jewish geniuses.” The artist first created them as silkscreens on paper, but, according to the Jewish Museum, which exhibited them the year they were made, they were so successful that he did another edition on canvas.
A portrait of Freud from the series sold at Sotheby’s Paris in June of this year for $537,500 or £348,257 – according to the artnet auction price database – while a portfolio of the full set of 10 works published by New York’s Ronald Feldman Fine Arts fetched $266,500, or £172,645 at Sotheby’s New York in November 2012.
The versions at the business in Los Angeles had hung on the wall for three decades, according to press sources, potentially giving the perpetrator plenty of time to create forgeries of the works.