The Southeast Asian Art File

SEP 28 1996

Stolen paintings returned to Jakarta

THE Singapore businessman and collector who bought five Indonesian oil paintings belonging to the National Museum in Jakarta has returned them to the museum from which they were stolen earlier.

The paintings were originally for sale at Christie's auction at the Hyatt Regency Singapore next Sunday.

Lawyer Ong Ying Ping, 33, representing the Singapore collector, who declined to be identified, said the paintings in question were returned to museum officials on Thursday evening after a deal was struck here between the two parties.

He said museum officials were convinced his client was an innocent party in the case and had acquired the five works without knowing that they belonged to the museum.

"The museum also showed its appreciation for my client's efforts to restore its lost treasures and agreed not to make any charges arising from the incident," he added.

Christie's withdrew the paintings last week after being informed that they had been stolen from the museum.

Among them were 19th-century Raden Saleh's Portrait Of A Dutch Governor Wearing The Willems Order, dated 1867, and famous portrait painter Basoeki Abdullah's undated work, A Nude.

Raden's portrait was priced between $100,000 and $150,000, and A Nude was estimated to be worth between $8,000 and $12,000 for the sale, which will feature 160 South-east Asian works worth a total of about $3.4 million.

The other three paintings, which were not disclosed to the press until yesterday, were Parang Teritis, Kawah Tangkuban Perahu, and Wajah Diri and Topeng, all by Affandi.

The general manager of Christie's Singapore, Mrs Irene Lee, also confirmed yesterday that the two paintings had been returned to the museum and declared the case closed.

Earlier, the managing director of Christie's Asia, Mr Philip Ng, said he decided to withdraw the paintings from its sale following reports of the theft in Indonesia last week.

"As there were no other claimants for the paintings after we announced the withdrawal, we returned the two paintings to the vendor, a Singapore businessman and collector," he said.

The Singapore police contacted his office on the matter on Tuesday.

"We co-operated with the police and revealed the identity of the vendor to help in their investigations," he added. A Reuters report yesterday quoted Indonesian Education and Culture Minister Wardiman Djojonegoro as saying: "Thank God, we've finally got the paintings."

Copyright 1996 Singapore Press Holdings Ltd. All rights reserved.
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