Collector Richard Weisman calls off the hunt for stolen Warhols

Owner cancels reward for his missing set, citing problems with his insurer

In a surprise move, the Seattle-based art collector Richard Weisman has cancelled his insurance claim for a $25m set of Andy Warhol images that were stolen from his Los Angeles home last month. A $1m reward initially offered by his insurers has also been withdrawn.

The silk-screen paintings are a series called “Athletes”; portraits of sports icons which the collector commissioned in 1977 directly from the artist. At the time he paid $800,000 for eight sets.

News of the widely reported theft came as a shock to the organisers of “Warhol/Icon: the Creation of Image” in the Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens (until 10 January). They had borrowed a set of “Athletes” from Weisman, and initially police were tipped off that they were the stolen ones.

The guest curator Paul Moorhouse, of the National Portrait Gallery in London thought the loan was off. “Then we discovered that Weisman had a second set which had been stolen.”

In fact, Weisman has four complete sets out of the original eight “Athletes”. The stolen set was taken from his Los Angeles home in early September; there was no sign of a break-in, and other more valuable works of art were left untouched nearby, Detective Don Hrycyk of the Los Angeles Police Department told The Art Newspaper.

“Withdrawing the insurance claim is an unusual move,” said Hrycyk. “People can make what they want of it.” The investigation into the theft continues, he said, but it “depends on [Weisman’s] cooperation; he’s cut off contact with the insurance company and has not returned recent phone calls”.

Attempts to reach Weisman were unsuccessful, but in a recent interview with The Seattle Times he said: “[Insurance investigators] turn you into a suspect. I just finally told them, ‘I’m not going to go through it for three to five years. Forget it’.”

Appeared in Frieze London dailies , October 2009