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September 13, 2009

Art thieves net Andy Warhol portraits

ART HISTORY - In L.A. a group of art thieves have gained 15 minutes of fame after stealing a series of Andy Warhol portraits of famed athletes.

The series of Andy Warhol pop art portraits include Muhammad Ali, Jack Nicklaus, Pele, Dorothy Hamill and other famous athletes were stolen from a collector's home. Andy Warhol was commissioned in 1977 by businessman Richard Weisman to create the portraits.

The collection of 10 silkscreen paintings of famous athletes of the 1970s was taken from Weisman's home sometime between Sept. 2nd and 3rd.

A $1 million reward has been offered for information leading to the return of the paintings.

Art recovery expert Robert Wittman, a former investigator for the FBI's national art crime team, says most rewards are offered for about 10% of a stolen collection's value. That suggests the value of the ten works is about $10 million.

"The real art in an art theft is not the stealing but the selling," he said. "People know what they are. You can't sell it to the industry, it's not going back to the market and you also can't sell it at auction," says Wittman. 95% of stolen artworks, especially famous pieces, are recovered by police.

The paintings were on display in Weisman's dining room and his house was locked. Nevertheless the thieves managed to make a clean get-away.

A neighbour saw a maroon van in the driveway of Weisman's home around the time of the robbery.

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