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Panel to Shed Light on de Kooning Painting’s Mysterious Theft and Recovery

TUCSON, AZ (Tuesday, March 12, 2019) — The University of Arizona Museum of Art may seem like a placid, peaceful place but on November 29, 1985, it was the site of one of the most baffling art heists in recent history. On that day, a mysterious couple walked into the museum and walked out with Woman-Ochre, an abstract painting by the legendary expressionist artist Willem de Kooning, believed to be worth more than $100 million. For years, the painting’s location remained a mystery. The thieves left behind no fingerprints and there were no security cameras installed in 1985.

Decades later, the painting was discovered by an antique dealer in an estate sale and it was returned to the museum. But who were the thieves? On May 16, 5:30 p.m.-7 p.m., at the UA Museum of Art, you’ll get a chance to learn more about this surreal story from people closely involved in it. You’ll hear how the painting came to the museum, what happened the day of the heist, how it was recovered—and who may have been responsible!

“Stars Around Us: The Theft of a Masterpiece and Its Remarkable Return,” will kick off with drinks and hors d'oeuvres at the UA Museum of Art at 5:30 p.m. At 7:00, Intermountain President and CEO Rose Lopez will welcome the audience and introduce the night’s speakers:

• Olivia Miller, Curator of Exhibitions at the UA Museum of Art, who will talk about the artist and how the painting came to be part of the museum’s collection.

• David Van Auker, the antique dealer who found the lost painting in 2017.

• Brian Seastone, Chief of the UA Police Department, who was one of the first officers at the scene of the theft in 1985.

• Chris Sigurdson, Vice President of Communications at UA, who will talk about the painting’s rediscovery and the process of getting it safely back to the museum.

The distinguished panel discussion will be followed by drinks, desserts and raffle on the museum patio. Tickets can be purchased online at

About Intermountain Centers

Intermountain Centers is a non-profit organization with more than 46 years of experience providing the highest quality, evidence-based, health and human services to improve the overall well-being and welfare of children, families and individuals. As one of the leading integrated healthcare organizations in Arizona, we have improved the lives of thousands of members living in our community.

Media Contact

Paul O’Rourke

Development and Communications, Intermountain Centers

(520) 721-1887, ext. 1149

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