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The Hunt for Marcos' Missing Art

Wednesday 14th December 2016

It's not unusual for art thefts to make front page news, no matter where they happen in the world. But there is one long-running hunt for missing art that you've probably never heard of, but perhaps you can be forgiven since it started way back in 1986.

Ferdinand E. Marcos, the dictator in power in the Philippines, had just been removed from power after two decades of brutal rule characterized by massive personal excesses and corruption. You've no doubt heard of his wife, Imelda Marcos, and her famously massive shoe collection. But you probably haven't heard that the pair were suspected of purchasing some fairly impressive paintings with embezzled government funds.

The paintings were by such famous masters as Pablo Picasso, Vincent van Gogh, and Edgar Degas, but they have yet to be found. Instead, when the volunteers investigated the Manhattan penthouse that the Marcoses' kept to throw lavish parties and entertain wealthy socialites, there were simply empty frames hanging on the walls with copper identification plates that described the pieces which used to hang there.

The decades-long search hasn't been without any success. In 1987, several important and valuable paintings were recovered by Raphael, Titian and El Greco, which sold for $15.4 million USD at a Christie's auction. In 1998, a missing Picasso was discovered after it was brought to Christie's for authentication, which eventually sold for just shy of $1 million USD.

The commission charged with finding these artworks has grown frustrated over the last few years, as so much time has passed that leads and trails have gone cold. However, they have not given up hope, and are turning to modern communication and crowdsourcing methods in an attempt to gain new leads on the still-missing pieces.

While they have achieved impressive results, the Filipino government has estimated that the full worth of the collection could be as much as $500 million US dollars, and the return of these pieces would not only be a fantastic public relations coup for the current administration but also a boon to the art world in general.

All too often the general public is neglected in consideration of stolen artworks, because once they have been stolen they obviously must be hidden away from the world. Hopefully, as the hunt for these missing treasures picks up steam again, the missing paintings will be restored to their rightful place where they can be appreciated again by the world at large.
 

Posted on December 14th 2016 on 03:20pm
Labels: art theft

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