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Mystery Surrounds Stolen Picassos

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Christie's Auction House has recently discovered that a huge collection of around 300 paintings by Pablo Picasso and other famed artists included several stolen works. Art dealer William Kingsland left the collection behind when he died in 2006, without indicating in a will what was intended to be done with them. According to the Associated Press, because Kingsland had no close relatives, New York City hired Christie's and Stair Galleries to take care of cataloguing and selling his art. The AP said Christie's had found at least 20 of the pieces stolen, but Reuters reported that, as part of its investigation, the FBI had posted photographs of some 140 works in the hopes of tracking down their rightful owners. Many of the paintings have been missing since as far back as the 1960s, and it is as yet unclear whether the collector was actually involved in the thefts. According to the AP, proceeds from the auctioning of Kingsland's collection will be given to the public administrator, a city office that takes care of estates without executors, wills, or known relatives.

This is not the first problem of theft that the collection has encountered since Kingsland's death. In 2006, two movers who had been hired to transport the paintings from the one-bedroom apartment to the auction houses walked off with two pieces by Picasso. They were caught and, the AP reported, the paintings were returned and the thieves sentenced to probation. The movers were perhaps some of the first people to enter the secretive world of Kingsland's collecting. According to WNBC New York, the eccentric Upper East Sider was active in his community but did not invite friends or acquaintances to visit his apartment.