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“We hear the security guards talking to one another on the walkie-talkie, saying that there’s a man on the line saying that he has a stolen painting. And I wish somebody could’ve seen us, because we just stopped our conversation and Jill’s eyes got big, and she said, ‘Oh, my gosh, are we gonna remember this moment for the rest of our lives.’”

On the day after Thanksgiving in 1985, two thieves casually entered the University of Arizona Museum of Art (UAMA). They strolled out minutes later with Willem de Kooning’s painting Woman-Ochre. Without security cameras or solid leads, the trail to find the stolen painting quickly went cold. In 2017, however, the artwork turned up in an unlikely place: a small antique shop in Silver City, New Mexico. After more than 30 years, the work was finally returned to the UAMA, but it was badly damaged, due to the way it was torn from its frame during the heist and how it was subsequently stored and handled. The UAMA turned to the Getty Museum and Conservation Institute to help conserve the painting.

In this episode, UAMA curator of exhibitions Olivia Miller and Getty Museum senior conservator of paintings Ulrich Birkmaier discuss Woman-Ochre’s theft, recovery, and conservation, as well as its place in de Kooning’s oeuvre and the UAMA’s collection. The treatment is still in progress, and the restored artwork is scheduled to be on view at the Getty Center from June 7 to August 28, 2022.

JIM CUNO: Hello, I’m Jim Cuno, president of the J. Paul Getty Trust. Welcome to Art and Ideas, a podcast in which I speak to artists, conservators, authors, and scholars about their work.
OLIVIA MILLER: We hear the security guards talking to one another on the walkie-talkie, saying that t...

Music Credits
“The Dharma at Big Sur – Sri Moonshine and A New Day.” Music written by John Adams and licensed with permission from Hendon Music. (P) 2006 Nonesuch Records, Inc., Produced Under License From Nonesuch Records, Inc. ISRC: USNO10600825 & USNO10600824

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This post is part of Art + Ideas, a podcast in which Getty president Jim Cuno talks with artists, writers, curators, and scholars about their work.
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