Nine of Andy Warhol’s prints of Jewish icons like Sigmund Freud and Gertrude Stein valued at $350,000 have gone missing from the walls of a movie editing studio in Los Angeles. An industrious thief reportedly created fake versions of the works and installed them in place of the originals, according to TMZ.
The switcheroo came to light when a member of the family business took the works to a framer because he noticed that they were sagging. The framer tipped his customer off that they were 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, and eight other missing works are also listed. “It’s an ongoing investigation,” Detective Don Hrycyk told artnet News in a phone interview.
A portrait of Freud from the series sold at Sotheby’s Paris in June of this year for $537,500, according to the artnet auction price database, while a portfolio of the full set of 10 published by New York’s Ronald Feldman Fine Arts fetched $266,500 at Sotheby’s New York in November 2012.
Other than 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 them as his “Jewish geniuses.” He 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.
The versions at the LA business had hung on the wall for three decades, according to the Daily Mail.
UPDATE: Based on other reports, an earlier version of this story stated that the police investigation had led to the Los Angeles outpost of Bonham’s auction house. A press rep for Bonham’s clarified in an email that the house received an information request in August about a Warhol print, but not one related to the series in question.
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