Willem de Kooning’s iconic ‘Woman-Ochre’ painting had been missing for 31 years. David Van Auker, who co-owns Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques, told investigators that he bought the painting for $2,000 at a New Mexico estate sale in 2017
The wonder is if the mystery of the missing $160MILLION painting been finally resolved?
The iconic artwork that vanished in 1985 and was the subject of an FBI search was found in the bedroom of a quiet, elderly couple after they died, both aged 81
Jerry Alter and his wife Rita are believed to be the thieves who stole a multi-million dollar ‘Woman-Ochre’ painting which vanished from the University of Arizona Museum of Art on Thanksgiving day 1985
A couple reportedly walked into the museum, the woman distracted the security guard as the man went upstairs and cut the painting from its frame, before they took off in a red sports car
The painting was found in the bedroom of Jerry and Rita’s home in August 2017 after they died
A recently surfaced photo shows Jerry and Rita were in Arizona around the time the painting was stolen
Alleged art thieves: ‘Nice old-aged couple’ Jerry and Rita Alter, [photo], are believed to be connected to a missing Willem de Kooning’s iconic ‘Woman-Ochre’ painting which was stolen out of a museum in a brazen 1985 heist
A married couple from New Mexico may be connected to a 30-year cold-case art theft after a long missing multi-million dollar painting turned up as an artifact in their estate following their deaths.
Willem de Kooning’s iconic ‘Woman-Ochre’ painting vanished from the University Of Arizona Museum Of Art on Thanksgiving day in 1985 was found in the bedroom of their home in New Mexico after the pair were deceased. The suspects were described as a man and woman believed to be in their 50s.
The painting – valued at $160million – would remain missing for the next 31 years until in 2017 the owner of an antiques store in Mexico called the museum’s curator and the FBI to say that he was in possession of the famous stolen artwork.
Willem de Kooning’s iconic ‘Woman-Ochre’ painting had been missing for 31 years. David Van Auker, who co-owns Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques, told investigators that he bought the painting for $2,000 at an estate sale.
The home where Van Auker purchased the beautiful painting belonged to Jerry and Rita Alter, who died in 2012 and 2017, respectively. They were both 81 when they died.
As the FBI investigates the theft, clues are beginning to emerge about the small-town couple accused of snatching de Kooning’s prized painting from the Arizona museum more than three decades ago.
According to KOB 4, Jerry and Rita kept a day planner with meticulous notes about where they went, what they ate and what medications they had. The couple mysteriously left Thanksgiving 1985 blank, the same day the painting was taken from the museum.
A newly surfaced family photo also reveals that Jerry and Rita, who have two children, were in Tuscon a day before the heist.
The sketch of what police said the man and woman looked like on the day they snatched the painting from a Museum in Arizona and took off
It is widely believed that New Mexico couple Rita and Jerry, [photo], are the thieves after the painting was discovered in their bedroom after they died
The painting was accidentally found inside Jerry and Rita’s New Mexico home [photo] when the couple’s nephew held an estate sale after their deaths
When the guard tried to chase after the man and the woman, they were speeding away in a red sports car. The museum did not have security cameras at the time and police found no fingerprints.
Authorities released a sketch of the couple and described what they had been wearing, but no arrests were ever made.
The theft went cold until in August 2017 Van Auker accidentally stumbled upon the painting ‘hidden’ behind the master bedroom of Jerry and Rita’s ranch-style New Mexico home.
He later told several news outlets that he went to the couple’s home to see what they had left behind after hearing about an estate sale.
Van Auker co-owns the Manzanita Ridge Furniture and Antiques store in Silver City, said as he was walking around the house he found a ‘great, cool mid-century painting’ and bought it from Jerry and Rita’s nephew, Ron Roseman, for $2,000.
The painter: De Kooning was a well-known figure in the art world of 1950s Manhattan. He died in 1997
Van Auker said he put the painting up in his store and almost immediately a customer told him that it looked like an original de Kooning painting.
Van Auker said he didn’t believe the customer at first, until other people commented on it telling him that he was in possession of a valuable piece of artwork.
Van Auker said he took the painting down, did some research and contacted the FBI and the Arizona museum when he realized it was stolen.
Museum curator Olivia Miller told WFAA that she was stunned when she got the call and flew to New Mexico to inspect the artwork.
‘I couldn’t believe I was looking at it in person. I’ve only known it through photos. I was trying to soak in every detail of the texture of it,’ she told the Silver City Daily Press.
The painting is now back at the museum, but is not yet on display.
Stunned at discovery: ‘I couldn’t believe I was looking at it in person. I’ve only known it through photos. I was trying to soak in every detail of the texture of it’ – Museum curator Olivia Miller
As for how it ended up in the bedroom of a small-town couple living in New Mexico, that remains a mystery. Over the past 12 months since it was first discovered, several clues have popped up, including a possible confession by Jerry.
According to the New York Times, Jerry Alter, a teacher and musician from New York, published a series of short stories the year before he died. One story called The Eye of the Jaguar describes a woman and her grand-daughter who stole a prized emerald gem from a museum.
Roseman, who was very close to Jerry and Rita, said he thought they must have lived ‘very frugal lives’.
Several people told the New York Times the couple owned a red sports car, similar to the one the thieves used to get away in 1985. Others said family photos show Rita wearing an outfit that matched a police description of what the female thief was wearing.