Gundlach offers major reward for return of art collection
Jeffrey Gundlach, founder of the investment firm Doubleline Capital, is well known in the financial world as a man who knows a thing or two about bonds, so much so he has acquired a sort of rock and roll status. He’s known as being a superstar in this field, a guru even, blessed as he is with the Midas touch.
As an exceptionally wealthy man, Mr Gundlach has naturally reinvested parts of his fortune into acquiring various assets and luxury goods, the usual etiquette for any informed and successful individual. Of course, building up a likeable art collection is implied.
Last week, however, his California home was raided and belongings totalling up to $10 million (approximately £6.2 million) were stolen. Along with a Porsche and a selection of designer watches, expensive works of art were snatched.
While the red Porsche Carrera 4S and the expensive watches, made by renowned brands like Breitling and Glashutte, are, for the most part, replaceable, the same cannot be said for his collection of art.
So prized is it that Mr Gundlach, who has up to $45 billion (£27.7 billion) in assets under management, has offered a $1.7 million (£1 million) reward for their safe return.
In particular, along with paintings by the Impressionist Guy Rose, the Expressionist Richard Diebenkorn and the Abstract Expressionist Philip Guston, it is a 1936 Pie Mondrian that the bond supremo is keen on being reconciled with.
Composition (A) En Rouge Et Blanc was described by Mr Gundlach as being an “extraordinarily rare” oil on canvas painting, exceptional in its elegance and condition. Mondrian’s, he noted, rarely come to auction.
In an interview with the Financial Times in 2011, he recounted his reaction of seeing a Mondrian for the first time in 2002 at the Tate Museum in London: “For some reason I just thought, boom, it was like the greatest thing ever and I don’t know why.”
Evidently, the painting clearly matters a great deal to him on a personal level, and it is no surprise then that his offer of one million dollars for this work is unprecedented for a single piece of stolen art.
It’s not the most offered though. The highest ever reward came from Boston’s Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum, infamously the victim of the biggest art theft in history in 1990.
On Saint Patrick’s Day, two men, dressed as security guards, entered the museum and stole 13 works with a combined value of $300 million (£185 million). $5 million (£3 million) has been offered for the safe return of paintings by artists including Vermeer, Rembrandt and Manet.
“I think he’s doing the right thing by making it very public,” Anthony Amore, co-author of Stealing Rembrandts and president of Boston Security Associates, which specialises in art security and recovery, told Bloomberg. “You have to make these things so recognisable that everyone knows it’s a hot item.”
While that argument may hold true, the reality is much more tragic. Take for example the grab at the museum in Boston. None of the culprits have ever been found and all of the works remain missing.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) describes art and cultural property crime as “looming criminal enterprise with estimated losses running as high as $6 billion [£3.7 billion] annually”.
Included in its Top Ten Art Crimes is the 1969 theft of Caravaggio’s Nativity with San Lorenzo and Francesco; the 1999 theft of Cezanne’s View of Auvers-sur-Oise; and the 2002 Van Gogh Museum Robbery, which resulted in the theft of View of the Sea at Scheveningen and Congregation Leaving the Reformed Church in Nuenen.
The absence of time reflects the arduous task in trying to reclaim these important works, and even the most recent of the items listed above was a decade ago. As acknowledged by the FBI, financially, the absence of important works is a seismic blow. There is also, of course, an intellectual and emotional void. Well, kind of.
“Some of the most legendary works in history are lost – and their lostness is part of their fascination,” the Guardian’s art critic Jonathan Jones wrote in the summer, ahead of the launch of a new online exhibition.
“Lost art can never disappoint. It is beyond criticism. It can easily become a myth, tantalising those who hear or read of it, obsessing them, driving them to rediscover or somehow recreate it. Art detectives may waste their entire lives searching for absent masterpieces.”
It is very well argued, but perhaps a little too wishful. Some pursuits, however impossible, are well worth undertaking. Life can throw up sublime surprises.
Cadogan Tate specialises in expert art logistics and the provision of high security fine art storage.