Famous Warhol collection stolen

Credit: Eleanor Lewis/Art Staff Credit: Eleanor Lewis/Art Staff

After Los Angeles art collector and businessman Richard L. Weisman left his home on Sept. 2, his 10-print series of Warhol portraits called “The Athletes” and a Warhol portrait of Weisman were stolen.

The next day, a domestic worker arrived at the home, went into the dining room, and upon seeing the blank walls called the police.

“There were no signs of forced entry,” Los Angeles Police Department detective Don Hrycyk told the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review. “The only lead police have are sightings of a maroon van that might have been parked nearby.”

“The Athletes” series includes portraits of Muhammad Ali, Chris Evert, Robert Gilbert, Dorothy Hamill, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Jack Nicklaus, Pele, Tom Seaver, Willie Shoemaker, and O.J. Simpson. Weisman commissioned Warhol, a friend of his, to paint “The Athletes” in 1977.

Tom Sokolowski, director of The Warhol museum here in Pittsburgh, told the Tribune-Review that Warhol made eight prints of the series, and that they interested Weisman, a sports lover, because he wanted to unite the elements of leisure, art, and sports.

Weisman, the son of art collectors, owns more than one set of “The Athletes,” and brought one of them to The Warhol museum in Pittsburgh in 2005.

The originals of the other sets exist for each image but in different colors. According to Bloomberg News, Weisman tried to sell one of his sets for $28 million in 2007.

“I was always familiar with the Campbell’s soup can painting and [Warhol’s] paintings of similar images with different colors,” said sophomore business administration major Toro Adeyemi. “Factory Girl made me find him even more interesting. I’m not shocked someone stole one of his paintings, as I’m sure it was brilliant, but I am surprised from the lack of respect in the act.”

Warhol was a leading figure in the pop art movement. After a successful career as a commercial illustrator, Warhol became famous worldwide for his work as a painter, avant-garde filmmaker, record producer, author, and public figure known for his membership in wildly diverse social circles.

Warhol was also a Pittsburgh native, and studied commercial art at the School of Fine Arts at the Carnegie Institute of Technology, now Carnegie Mellon.

“I think that his art still has a big influence on our culture today,” said Gabrielle Page, a sophomore biomedical and mechanical engineering double major. “You see it a lot in fashion with pop art and bold colors. I think that a lot of the usage of bold prints and colors comes from his influence. Because it’s so evident today, it doesn’t surprise me that someone would want to steal his paintings.”

A $1 million reward has been offered for information regarding the recovery of the stolen collection.