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Bond trader offers $1.7-million reward for stolen art collection

Bond trader Jeffrey Gundlach has offered $1.7 million for the safe return of a cherished $10-million collection taken from his Santa Monica home, one of the largest rewards on record for the return of stolen art.

Gundlach, a bond fund manager, announced the reward at a news conference Monday in downtown Los Angeles, according to Times business reporters. The sum is believed to be topped only by the $5 million that the Isabella Stewart Gardner Museum in Boston offered for the return of $300 million worth of art stolen in a 1990 robbery. Those paintings, which include three Rembrandts, are still missing and the thieves have not been caught.

Gundlach gave few details about the crime, which he said he discovered Sept. 14 after returning from a two-day business trip to New York. In addition to the art, the thieves made off with expensive watches, rare bottles of wine and even his red 2010 Porsche Carrera.

PHOTOS: Art stolen in $10-million burglary

Santa Monica police have released few details about the Gundlach burglary but said they were working with art-theft experts from the FBI, Interpol and Los Angeles Police Department.

The biggest unanswered question: Was the caper the work of sophisticated art thieves or street burglars who couldn't tell a Renoir from a Rockwell? The theft has shaken the Southern California art world as movie moguls, pop stars, actors and star lawyers wonder whether it could happen to them.

"Everybody's talking about it; the buzz is out there," said Cheryl Perkey, a Los Angeles art consultant to wealthy collectors and celebrities. "People who have valuable collections, that's always in the back of their mind, the safety of their collections."

Gundlach set aside $1 million of the reward money for a Mondrian piece, which one art-theft expert said was the most ever offered for a single painting.

Gundlach originally offered a $200,000 reward for information leading to the return of the paintings.

He added $1 million for information leading to the return of a Piet Mondrian painting called "Composition (A) En Rouge Et Blanc." He is offering $500,000 for the return of three other paintings, two by Joseph Cornell and one by Jasper Johns.

Police said Gundlach estimated the value of his collection—which included some of the biggest names in contemporary art: Mondrian, Johns and Richard Diebenkorn—at about $10 million. Two of the pieces sold for a combined $8.7 million in recent years. The Mondrian painting sold at auction for $5.3 million in 2002, according to Sotheby's.

Johns' "Green Target" sold for $3.4 million at Sotheby's in 2004. That painting was part of Johns' first solo show at Leo Castelli Gallery in New York and is very desirable because of that history.

Gundlach declined to say whether the paintings were insured. Art consultants said such protection is affordable and wise.

"With that level of collecting, he had to have insurance," said Merry Norris, an art consultant to wealthy individuals. "He'd have been ludicrous not to."

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-- Stuart Pfeifer, Mike Boehm and Walter Hamilton

 
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