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Arts and Humanities Local News

Humana Returns Stolen Statues to Italy

Louisville-based insurance company Humana has agreed to return two Roman marble statues to Italy.

The statues of the Goddess Fortuna and another female figure stood in the Humana Building lobby for years. But recently, Humana officials found the works on a list of stolen art. The company voluntarily returned the works to Italian officials and is not seeking any payment for the statues.

“No no no, we think what’s appropriate at this instance is for us to return these treasures to where they rightfully belong, and that is their country of origin…Italy,” says spokesman Tom Noland.

Humana purchased the statues from a New York art dealer in 1984. Noland says the company will not attempt to get any money from the dealer, either.

The works have already been replaced in the lobby.

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Arts and Humanities Local News Uncategorized

Stolen Altarpiece Handed Over to US Government

After spending 40 years at Louisville’s Speed Art Museum, a stolen 14th century work is going home.

The Speed Art Museum bought the piece from a New York Gallery in 1973 for 38 thousand dollars, not realizing the Italian art was stolen from a home in Italy two years earlier.

The work is a three panel altarpiece.  The center panel depicts the Madonna and Child, with the other panels portraying various saints and the crucifixion.

The United States government will hand it over to the Italian government, which will decide whether or not to return it to the family that was burglarized.

Museum Director Charles Venable said at a handover ceremony that it’s often difficult to verify the authenticity of stolen art.

“How many of you have ever been to an antique’s mall?  You can raise your hand, you’re not going to be arrested,” Venable said to the crowd of about 50 people.  “And if you’ve ever bought something at an antique’s mall, how do you really know where that object came from?  There are a lot of objects in the world, and it’s very hard to know where they are every single day.”

An Italian art researcher discovered the work was stolen using an online database in 2009.

The Speed museum has been reimbursed for the full 38 thousand dollars by the New York gallery.  The piece will remain available for viewing until Sunday afternoon.

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Arts and Humanities Local News

Venable Discusses Stolen Art, Speed Fundraising

A stolen Italian painting that’s been in the Speed Museum’s collection for nearly 40 years is now on display in Louisville for the last time.

The Speed purchased the piece in 1973 for $38,000, and museum officials didn’t know it was stolen until a few months ago. The Speed worked with the U.S. and Italian governments to organize the art’s return. But before the painting is sent back to Italy it will be on display at the Speed through July 3rd.

Museum director Charles Venable says the likelihood that a museum could obtain stolen art again is greatly diminished now. And if a piece does turn out to be stolen, there are protections in place for the buyer.

“Back in the 70s, we basically would have gotten an invoice and after talking to the gallery and them saying they had clear title to it, we basically would have paid them just like a normal business transaction. Now we actually have like a 30-page document that a gallery owner would sign saying that if a problem ever came up and we had to turn a work of art over, they would have to stand by and guarantee the purchase price of that art.”

Most of the Speed’s collection is donated, but Venable says any pieces that are purchased are thoroughly investigated.

The Speed is also currently trying to raise $54 million by next year to finance a major expansion of its facilities on the U of L campus.

Venable says the previous, silent phase of the campaign was a success, and the goal is in sight.

“During this terrible recession, we were already able to raise $33 million and currently we have a $10 million challenge on the table from two anonymous board members. You can do the math, if we have $33 and we have $10 from them, and if we matched it that would give us $53, so we would be very close to our goal and we could go ahead and break ground on time next year to do that expansion,” says Venable.

This also comes in spite of a general malaise in the Louisville arts community, with funding for major institutions waning and Mayor Greg Fischer encouraging arts groups that receive grants from the city to put together a “Plan B’ for next year.

Venable made his comments in an interview with WFPL’s Graham Shelby.