Art Uncovered: Is it Yours?
The late William Kingsland’s New York City apartment, found
stuffed with hundreds of works of art after his death.
Talk about a surprising discovery. In 2006, a treasure trove
of all kinds
of art work—some of which has subsequently been identified
as stolen—was uncovered in a New York City apartment.
In an effort to track down the rightful owners, the FBI
and the Public Administrator of New York County have posted
of the most important pieces here on our website.
More than 300 works of art—paintings, sketches, sculptures,
and other pieces by such artists as Pablo Picasso, John Singleton
Copley, Alberto Giacometti,
Giorgio Morandi, and Eugene Boudin—were discovered after the death of
the apartment’s occupant, William M.V. Kingsland.
was well known in New York City’s art circles as an engaging
and intelligent connoisseur of art, books, architecture, and
genealogy. But when he died, he left no will…and no apparent
heirs to claim the floor-to-ceiling stacks of paintings and
art works crammed into his one-bedroom apartment.
out Kingsland was a pretty secretive guy—despite having many
acquaintances, very few people had ever been inside his residence.
In conversations with friends, he was often evasive about his
early years and his family. And, as reported by the media not
long after his death, William Kingsland wasn’t even his
given name—he was born Melvyn Kohn and spent his early
years in the Bronx before legally changing his name to Kingsland.
He thought it had a more literary sound to it and would help
him gain acceptance among Manhattan’s upper crust.
discovery. After Kingsland’s death, New York Public Administrator
Ethel Griffin hired two auction houses—Christie’s
and Stair Galleries—to sell the art. But as Christie’s
researched the pieces to determine their provenance (history
of ownership), it discovered some of them had been reported
stolen in the 1960s and 1970s and immediately contacted New
York Special Agent Jim Wynne, a member of our Art Crime Team.
And after Stair Galleries auctioned off several pieces, one
of the buyers—an art gallery owner—discovered the
piece he bought had been reported stolen as well, so he too
got in touch with Agent Wynne.
One bizarre side note: A mover hired by the Public Administrator’s Office
to transport the contents of Kingsland’s apartment to a warehouse was
charged for stealing two Picasso sketches each valued at approximately $30,000.
And, it turns out that was not the first time those two sketches had been stolen…sometime
before they ended up in Kingsland’s collection they were stolen from
a New York art gallery around 1967!
cooperation of the Public Administrator’s Office and
the two auction houses, we began investigating Kingsland’s
collection of art and positively identified several works that
had been stolen. And we think there are more. But because of
the overwhelming size of the collection and the complex and
time-consuming nature of provenance investigations, we decided
the best and most expeditious course of action was to publicize
the art work to the general public.
We need your
help. If you have information on the provenance, acquisition,
or ownership of any work of art from the Kingsland collection
shown here—or if you want to make a claim—please
contact Agent Wynne at (718) 286-7302 or
by e-mail at [email protected]. Click Here to view the
gallery of works uncovered.