Two works by Andy Warhol have disappeared from the Andy Warhol Museum of Modern Art in Medzilaborce, Slovakia, after being loaned to Arts Group, a Bratislava-based company, for “educational purposes.”
The works are a Campbell’s Soup Can painting and a Marilyn Monroe print. They have been missing since March, but it’s only now that the museum has made the incident public.
The art expert Jaroslav Krajňák, who is working on the case, told The Slovak Spectator that the Campbell’s Soup Can painting is worth an estimated €35,000 and the Marilyn Monroe print €500. Slovak police, however, estimated that the artworks could fetch up to six figures in the market.
According to museum officials, the institution had arranged similar loan agreements with the same company in the past, without problems. However, after the firm had failed to return the artworks, the museum began to suspect that the “irreplaceable” pieces may have been stolen.
“The artworks which were loaned were collected by a security company with guns,” Michal Bycko, deputy manager of the museum, told the Mirror. “They had all the relevant documents so there was no reason not to hand them over.”
The Slovak Spectator reports that the missing works could have become ransom in a dispute between Martin Švajda, from Arts Group, and Herbert Gorge, an Israeli businessman. Gorge allegedly lent over €500,000 to Švajda to buy works from various artists, including Warhol. Some of these works were allegedly fakes and, as a result, Švajda got into debt, according to Hospodárske Noviny.
Slovakian government officials said the loan agreement was not signed between the museum and Arts Group, but between the museum and an individual. Meanwhile, Valika Maďarová, the museum director, has been suspended on suspicion of being involved in the plot, after the irregularities in the loan agreement emerged.
Veronika Fitzekova, a spokesperson for the local council of Presov, which runs the museum, said in a statement that Maďarová was not cooperating with investigators, making it difficult for police to assess the relevant evidence. Police have also revealed that the Bratislava address stated in the loan agreement is deserted.
The museum, located in the north-east of the country, is only ten miles away from the birthplace of Warhol’s mother, Julia Warhola, who lived there with her husband.
The museum’s collection contains over 160 works, memorabilia and artifacts. It is the second largest museum dedicated to Andy Warhol, after the Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh.
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