Clockwise from top left: Elaine de Kooning, “Untitled (Madrid Series #3)”; Eanger Irving Couse, “Taos Pueblo at Night”; Jane Freilicher, “Burnett’s Barn”; and Joseph Henry Sharp, “View of the Taos Pueblo” (images courtesy City of Boulder)

On December 14, an art transport company rolled into a Boulder hotel for the night. The next morning, the movers found the truck’s padlock smashed and five paintings — worth a total of $400,000 — stolen.

A little over three weeks later, Colorado police found the works undamaged in a different hotel room in the city of Lakewood, about a 40 minute drive away. The authorities also uncovered stolen guns and electronics, 2,000 fentanyl pills, and 23 grams of methamphetamine.

Two of the paintings were en route to a buyer in a Denver suburb: Jane Freilicher’s “Burnett’s Barn” and Elaine de Kooning’s “Untitled (Madrid Series #3),” which portrays a matador. After moving to New Mexico in 1957 and inspired by a trip to Ciudad Juárez in Mexico, de Kooning created a series of drawings and paintings depicting bullfighting.

The remaining three paintings were headed to New Mexico after they were sold at a Bonhams auction in November. Joseph Henry Sharp’s “View of the Taos Pueblo,” Eanger Irving Couse’s “Taos Pueblo at Night,” and Ernest Martin Hennings’s “Laguna Pueblo” fetched sale prices of $38,175, $70,935, and $20,400, respectively. Sharp, Couse, and Hennings were all founding members of the Taos Society of Artists, a short-lived collective that lasted from 1915 to 1926 whose members offered romanticized scenes of Western life, featuring subjects such as cowboys, ranches, and indigenous peoples.

The police arrested 31-year old Brandon Camacho-Levine in association with the robbery. He was booked on 15 charges, including theft, drug distribution and manufacturing, distributing drugs while in possession of a firearm, and weapon possession by a convicted felon. In late July, Camacho-Levine was arrested for stealing vehicles from a parking garage, but he was able to escape. While in custody, he experienced a medical emergency and was taken to a hospital, where he reportedly fought with police and the hospital’s staff and fled.

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Elaine Velie

Elaine Velie is a writer from New Hampshire living in Brooklyn. She studied Art History and Russian at Middlebury College and is interested in art's role in history, culture, and politics.

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