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Appointment for Return of Art Left in the Subway (Matisse & Picasso Left in Subway Terminal)
New York Times ^ | June 1, 2003 | COREY KILGANNON

Posted on 06/02/2003 2:11:28 PM PDT by Mister Magoo

Appointment for Return of Art Left in the Subway


The man on the telephone called himself Paul and said to meet him this afternoon at 80th Street and Broadway.

"No third parties," he said.

And so the stage seems to be set for the final act of the case of the mislaid art. This is the affair of the professional art framer who left two precious pieces of art on a subway platform on Thursday: an original Picasso print and a study by Sophie Matisse, great-granddaughter of Henri Matisse.

The framer, William H. Bailey, 63, who was hired to frame the works for two clients, said last night that he got a telephone call yesterday from a man who claimed to have his leather art portfolio, and the art.

Mr. Bailey was carrying the works in the portfolio when he entered the 79th Street subway station on Thursday morning. He set it down on the grimy gum-stained platform, and when he boarded a downtown No. 1 train, the paintings were right where he left them, leaning against a subway column.

He said he wept when he realized what he had done. Later came the phone call, and the possibility that an absent-minded mistake — an expensive one — might be made right.

The caller identified himself only as Paul, Mr. Bailey said last night in a telephone interview. Paul offered to return the art today in exchange for the reward, which Mr. Bailey told him would be $1,000. Mr. Bailey said he did not press Paul for his last name or address because "I didn't want to pin him down."

"I'm not worried," he added. "He has no use for them. I don't think he even knew who Henri Matisse was, let alone Sophie. He did know Picasso."

Paul told Mr. Bailey that on Thursday, two men stopped by where he works, at Broadway and 80th Street, with the leather case. He said they told him that they had found it in the subway but had no use for it and that he should "do whatever you want with it."

Paul took the case home but did not look inside until Saturday. He told Mr. Bailey that he had not known who the artists were until his wife told him yesterday, after she heard news reports. Paul said his wife pestered him to call Mr. Bailey and give him details about the works and their packing — the Picasso, a rendering of two male figures, was 8 by 10 inches, and Ms. Matisse's piece was a re-creation of Picasso's famous "Guernica."

Mr. Bailey said the details were correct, giving him hope that Paul — or whoever he was — was telling the truth.

Mr. Bailey said: "When I heard that, I told him, `The case is yours, and the thousand bucks is your wife's.' He told her, and I heard this big shriek. Then he said, `She's going shopping.' "

The owner of the Picasso print, Judy Wald, a corporate recruiter in Manhattan, said last night that she hoped the caller would indeed return her art, but she was cautious. "The guy's obviously still an unknown quantity, so we're still waiting for the other shoe to drop," she said.

"Obviously, he was attracted enough by the reward to call. If he doesn't show, well — I don't even want to anticipate."

Mr. Bailey said that he hoped the artworks would be returned and that his professional reputation might be protected. "I don't want to be remembered as the idiot who left this thing on the subway platform," he said. "It'd be nice to be vindicated on this."

He said that he was fully insured, and that he had framed paintings for museums, including Van Gogh's "Starry Night" for the Museum of Modern Art.

He also said he received a lot of "weirdo calls" from people claiming to have the art but asking to negotiate the reward. "I also got callers at 5 a.m. cursing me out, saying, `You deserve what happens to you.' "

Reached last night by telephone, Ms. Matisse said the return of the works would be "a true miracle."

"It's always a thorn in one's side to know that someone else is missing it," she said. "Better to give it back and get one's peace of mind."

Yesterday, the area around the subway station was abuzz with talk about the art. Gary Kauffman, 44, a lawyer, said he thought most New Yorkers would be honorable enough to return the art. "You have to give these things time," he said.

Ronnie Wilson, 61, who sleeps in the 79th Street station, said that if he found the works, he would negotiate for more than $1,000.

"He'd get them back, but there'd be some serious negotiating between our lawyers for a proper percentage," said Mr. Wilson, reclining on three couch cushions in his stocking feet at the end of the uptown platform, dining on takeout chicken and rice. "Like any street person, I'm an opportunist. I'd be fair, but you got to be fair to me."

TOPICS: Culture/Society; Front Page News; News/Current Events
KEYWORDS: art; framer; matisse; picasso

1 posted on 06/02/2003 2:11:28 PM PDT by Mister Magoo
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To: Mister Magoo
A thousand bucks for the safe return of a Matisse and a Picasso? Wow, they would have been out some serious cash if the guy had lost a REALLY desirable work of art...
2 posted on 06/02/2003 2:29:31 PM PDT by GalaxieFiveHundred
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To: GalaxieFiveHundred
A thousand bucks for the safe return of a Matisse and a Picasso?

a piece by the famous Matisse's grand daughter (a copy of a famous Picasso at that) and a print of a Picasso. Valuable, but probably not something you could put the kids through college on.

I've heard that normal finders fee from insurance companies for professional investigators is between 5% and 10% of the assessed value of the returned property. It's likely that the $1,000 is low, but not that low. Particularly since it's apparently being put up by the framer and not by the insurance company. I hope this one has gone through.

Of course, with all of this publicity, how much you wanna bet there's a hundred thugs hanging out at the subway station waiting to grab the paintings to hold for ransom, while another hundred is looking to hit up either party for the $1,000.

3 posted on 06/02/2003 2:45:00 PM PDT by Phsstpok
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To: Mister Magoo
I'm a admittedly naive person. If it's not yours, give it back. The reward is ummaterial.
4 posted on 06/02/2003 2:51:34 PM PDT by SoDak
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To: Mister Magoo
"Like any street person, I'm an opportunist. I'd be fair, but you got to be fair to me."


5 posted on 06/02/2003 2:55:23 PM PDT by cinFLA
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To: Phsstpok
I'm with you. $1,000 (plus the leather case) for the return of these two pieces is probably a fair reward. Picasso prints are always of questionable value, both because he made so many of them to begin with, and because there have been so many forgeries made over the years.
6 posted on 06/02/2003 2:56:54 PM PDT by blau993 (Labs for love; .357 for Security.)
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To: All

Matisse in FR news today led me to this thread... had to find out what happened to the mislaid art. Wow, I can only imagine his feeling of relief.

A Happy Ending to the Case of the Mislaid Picasso

7 posted on 10/09/2009 12:04:19 PM PDT by deks
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