In April 2007, following a birthday party at his home in Manhattan, an unnamed art collector noticed that his AndyWarhol sculpture of a Heinz ketchup box and an ink drawing by Francis Picabia were missing. Yesterday, the Federal Bureau of Investigation arrested James S. Biear, a former employee of the collector, and charged him with the thefts.
According to a statement released by the United States Attorney for the South District of New York, Biear sold the Warhol for $220,000 to a New York collector, allegedly telling him that he had received the sculpture from his uncle as a gift. In fact, the collector from whom the work was stolen says that he is the original and sole owner, having received the ketchup box directly from Warhol in 1964.
Though Biear could not be reached for comment, his lawyer, Michael Bachner, said that his client had obtained ownership over both works and sold them lawfully. Biear was scheduled to be arraigned in Ossining, New York, 35 miles north of Manhattan, last night. Ensuing court proceedings will decide the works’ true owner.