Published: 17th March, 2011
by DAN CARRIER
AN eagle-eyed art lover has helped a gallery reclaim a painting that was stolen more than two years ago.
The Boundary Gallery in Swiss Cottage, run by Agi Katz, was the victim of a conman who stole three paintings by celebrated contemporary painter Anita Klein from a show in 2009.
But this week one of the paintings was returned to the gallery in Boundary Road after someone who had once bought a Klein print spotted it for sale for £2,500 in the window of a Moroccan knick-knack shop on Harrow Road and was so surprised to see it available, she sent the artist a picture to check it was not a forgery.
Ms Katz, who personally lost £10,500 from the scam, was overjoyed to have one of the three paintings returned to her by police officers.
And she now hopes the other two may also be found.
The scam happened on the last day of a major retrospective of Ms Klein’s work at the Boundary Gallery.
Two weeks before it closed, a well-dressed businessman purporting to be a restaurant owner, showed up and declared an interest in the work.
The mysterious individual had admired the paintings and told Ms Katz that he wanted three of them for a new Italian restaurant he was opening on the Fulham Road in west London.
He then said he wanted to pay the £10,500 price immediately and used details from a credit card that later turned out to have been stolen.
To make matters worse, the gallery was not insured for this type of theft.
In a further twist Ms Katz decided to visit the address of the supposed restaurant in Chelsea only to discover it was a bridal wear shop – and it had been hit by the same scam.
She added: “I spoke to the owner and they said they had lost two expensive dresses on the same weekend, when a man fitting the description of the person who stole my paintings came in and said his sisters were getting married in Morocco and he’d been asked to get them outfits.”
Police raided the Harrow Road shop and found the painting, which has now been returned. No arrests have yet been made.
Artist Ms Klein said: “I got an email from someone I had never met before who had once bought a print of my work.
“They liked the painting in the shop window but thought it was a strange place to see it for sale, so they sent me a picture to make it was a genuine piece of my work.
“At the time it was very nice to make the sale, but in retrospect it was too good to be true.”
Ms Klein, who went to Hampstead School, is widely celebrated and can be found in the collections of both the British Library and the British Museum. It meant the sale was not out of the ordinary.