"Tres Personajes" by Rufino Tamayo, a 1970 oil and sand on canvas painting, in an undated image released to the media on Oct. 22, 2007. Source: Sotheby's via Bloomberg News
New York City woman, Elizabeth Gibson, was walking past a collection of garbage bags put out for collection one Saturday morning in 2003 when her eye caught a painting sticking out the top. Initially she walked right on by but a short time later she returned for a second look with a hunch that this painting may just be the goods for her apartments living room wall.
There must have been something about the painting that suggested there was more to it than would at first appear because Elizabeth began, what would turn out to be, a rather lengthy and difficult journey to find out the artworks history.
Fast forward four years later and Elizabeth learnt that the painting its self was by an extremely important and valuable Mexican artist, Rufino Tamayo and was titled, `Tres Personajes.' Painted in 1970 the title translates to 'Three People' in English.
Clearly a dilemma for Elizabeth who initially hid the painting behind a false wall once she began to uncover just how valuable it was.
If that wasn't enough, it was unnerving to find out that the painting had been stolen almost twenty years earlier from art collectors, a couple living in Houston who bought the painting from Sothebey's in 1977 for US$50,000. A fact she uncovered in 2005 whilst watching a PBS Television program about missing artworks.
Up to this point I'm really just retelling a story that you can read about in several articles including Bloomberg's Stolen Tamayo Found in Manhattan Trash May Sell for $1 Million by Lindsay Pollock.
Now did you catch that last headline? The conclusion to this story is that Elizabeth returned the painting and received a tidy $15,000 dollar reward from the owner as well as an undisclosed fee from Sothebey's for the sale of the painting which is expected to fetch between $750,000 to 1 million when it is auctioned on November 20, 2007.
Given that there are many valuable artworks that have been stolen and never recovered over the years you may want to consider taking a closer look at what people are placing out for garbage collection.