NEW YORK.- With extensive cooperation between the Houston Police Department, Nationwide Insurance Company, and Simpson's Galleries in Houston, Texas, the Art Loss Register has recovered an Andrew Wyeth watercolor on paper entitled, A Bridge, Race Gate (Chadds Ford, Pennsylvania). The subject of the work-a view of the upper gates of the millrace on the Wyeth's property in Chadd's Ford, PA-is well known to Wyeth collectors and scholars alike, and the work is to be included in the forthcoming catalogue raisonne of the artist's work.
After spending less than a year in a private Houston collection, the Wyeth was taken from its owner's home during a brazen burglary, including 22 other paintings, in December 2000 while its owner was away on vacation. The painting was registered on the ALR's database of lost and stolen artworks and nearly a decade later, the painting emerged at Simpson's Gallery in the very city from which it was stolen. When a suspicious would-be consignor arrived at his auction house looking to unload the Wyeth, Ray Simpson recognized the quality of the work and the celebrity of its artist. He agreed to take the picture in for an evaluation and suggested that its seller return in a few hours. Mr. Simpson, trusting his instincts and first impressions, then called the New York office of the ALR to request a search of the suspect picture, at which time it was matched by art historian, Erin Culbreth.
With a short window of opportunity in which to act, executive director and general counsel Christopher A. Marinello contacted the Houston Police Department where he was able to reach Detective Richard Anderson, the original officer assigned to the case eight years earlier. Detective Anderson, along with eight undercover officers, made his way to Simpson's Galleries, successfully apprehended the prospective seller and took possession of the stolen artwork.
After significant research and assistance from Nationwide Insurance Company, the ALR was able to determine the owner of the painting and broker a deal for its return. In the end, it was the instinct of Ray Simpson that set the wheels of the recovery in motion. The ALR team would like to thank him for his complete cooperation during the investigation and for his commitment to ending the trade of stolen artworks. The ALR would also like to thank Detective Richard Anderson and the Houston Police Department for their competent assistance and quick reaction allowing for the swift recovery of this unique work.
The work will be sold at Christie's Auction House in New York in December 2008.