A Mysterious Woman Mailed $105,000 in Stolen Art Back to a Museum

The cops are hoping to get in touch with her to find out how the work was jacked in the first place.

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Nov 14 2017, 1:11pm

Screengrab via the New York Post / NYPD 

Late last month, two photographs on view at New York's Museum of Modern Art PS1 disappeared from the exhibition space in Long Island City. But a few days later, the prints made it back without the museum even having to go looking for them, thanks to a mysterious package that showed up on PS1's doorstep.

According to the New York Post, a woman in her 20s mailed the photos—worth a combined $105,000—back to PS1 from a shipping store in Brooklyn early this month. Police aren't sure if the mysterious FedEx-er actually jacked the photos in the first place, but they're hoping to figure out who she is and question her about how she got a hold of them. Their only lead on her identity, according to the Post, is surveillance footage from the shipping store she hit up to return the stolen art.

Museum sources told CBS New York PS1's alarm was set the night the photos were swiped, but somehow it never went off. While there's no word on exactly how the prints were stolen, one theory is that the thief took a page out of From the Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler: camping out in the museum until it was closed and jacking the photos in the dead of night.

Both photographs came from a retrospective exhibition of Carolee Schneemann, a performance artist PS1 called "one of the most influential artists of the second part of the 20th century." Schneemann poses nude in both prints, which were snapped by Alex V. Sobolewski back in the 60s, according to the Post.

Investigators haven't said what could've motivated the theft or the equally baffling return, though folks who checked out the exhibition seem to have a lot of theories. Patron Kelvi Diaz told CBS the thief might have been "really just in love" with the photos, and—like Theo Decker in The Goldfinchdecided to keep the work for themselves. In a more creative take on the heist, artist Jenny Morgan said the crook might have actually been a visionary: a fellow artiste looking to make a statement about security or possession or whatever.

"I would guess that it’s someone else's own artistic reaction," Morgan told CBS, “a reaction to the performance art that she's seeing."

When it comes to high-profile theft, it's impossible to say why people try the crazy shit they do, from sneaking into the Parisian catacombs to snatching a giant gold coin with a wheelbarrow. And while it might seem like a bad move to return a bunch of expensive stuff you stole, this anonymous Brooklynite might've had the right idea, since selling stolen artwork is pretty much impossible.

Follow Drew Schwartz on Twitter.

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