$1 Million Reward for Stolen Andy Warhol Portraits of Athletes

Unique collection of 10 paintings stolen from a Los Angeles home.

ByRussell Goldman and Clayton Sandell
September 12, 2009, 12:05 PM

Sept 12, 2009— -- Described by Los Angeles police as one of the city's biggest home robberies in more than a decade, thieves made off with millions of dollars worth of Andy Warhol paintings depicting some of the greatest athletes of the 1970s. The one-of-a-kind paintings included Muhammad Ali, O.J. Simpson and Chris Evert.

Businessman and art collector Richard Weisman has offered a $1 million reward for information leading to the recovery of the 10 silk-screen paintings stolen sometime between Sept. 2 and Sept. 3.

"It's one of the largest residential burglaries that has occurred in L.A.," said Los Angeles Police Department detective Don Hrycyk. "Maybe the biggest one in the last 15 years."

The 40-inch-by-40-inch paintings, which also included portraits of Dorothy Hammill, Kareem Abdul Jabar, Pele and Jack Nicklaus, were on display in the home's dining room and the house was locked.

A nanny who arrived at the house last Thursday afternoon discovered that the artwork was missing and called police.

Detectives say there were other paintings in the house that were not taken. They declined to assign a value to the collection, but Weisman tried to sell the collection in 2002 for $3 million, according to The Associated Press.

In addition to the 10 paintings of athletes, there was one portrait of Weisman, a Warhol acquaintance who police said often lectures about the pop artist and his work. Weisman has published a book on modern art titled "From Picasso to Pop."

Weisman was out of the state and could not be reached for comment.

Police say they have few clues and no suspects in the case.

"Right now we have no idea as to who it is," said Hrycyk. "It doesn't look like the neighborhood burglar. It looks like somebody that might have had a little more knowledge about the house and the occupants."

Stolen Warhols Would Be Tough to Sell

The only tangible lead police will talk about is a vehicle spotted by a neighbor.

"There was a neighbor who thought she saw possibly an old maroon van that may have been parked in the driveway," Hrycyk said. "But we don't know if it's connected to the crime or not."

Police say such a conspicuous art collection would be tough to sell.

"Artworks of this significance are very hard to move," said Hrycyk, who heads the LAPD's Art Theft Detail. "And so I believe, just based on past experience, that these will surface. At some point they will show up. It's just a question of whether it's sooner or later."

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