The painting was a restored masterpiece. The experts and insurers and a few select art celebrities were allowed unfettered access for some hours. "The Divine Morning" was eventually authenticated and insured for $20million. It made headlines around art circles and museums for the next few days. The owner was a virtual nobody. An art student himself, even after working in the animation industry for nearly a decade Sid Browseter was an instant celebrity of sorts.
The prestigious auction house- Barlows was holding it in custody till its auction next month. Barlows had facilitated the insurance and security of the painting for a sizeable bump in commissions- all above board. Sid managed to get them set up a public viewing at the cities largest museum for one day. And that was enough. The "Divine Morning" was promptly stolen. The painting that was displayed was identified as a fake within minutes, by the museum officials. Barlows and the police were called in and every second of CCTV footage and communication data was reviewed . Only one painting had left the Barrows' vault that day and the van had not stopped on the way to the museum.
For the next few days vault was searched over by the Barrow's staff accompanied by a couple of officers and another team of forensic experts. While the press and TV had a field day reporting the grand theft, an oil billionaire in the US negotiated a deal worth $9 million. And soon enough, "The Divine Morning" hung in his private collection. What that American billionaire did not know was that "The Divine Morning" was purchased by a South African eccentric for $7 million, the very same day.
The Insurance company along with Interpol and half a dozen other agencies tried and failed to track the dealers. Barrow's were allowed to resume their business after nine weeks of lock-down. They started by installing a new state-of- art security for their vaults- all from the Insurance payout. Sid got only about $11 million after all the deductions. Yet he made headlines again when he pledged on TV to buy paintings from Barrow's next auction worth at least a couple of million; in support of the august auction house.
A few months later, Sid again made headlines when he bid $1 million for a new age painting - The Sadhu -worth only about half as much. And yet another slew of publicity followed him when he got engaged to one of the art supervisors at Barrow's, ten years his elder. An insurance recovery agent following up on the theft of "The Divine Morning" uncovered that this lady was a reformed art forger but got no further.
The unsolved case of "The Divine Morning" became a legend among elite scamsters. The popular theory was that there was no original masterwork to begin with. But truth was more uncanny. The Divine Morning had never left the Barrow's vault for many months; and now lay hidden behind a new age painting- The Sadhu- hanging in the Qatar Mansion of Sid Browseter; months of planning by Sid and his girlfriend who worked at Barrows, had borne fruit.
PICTURE CREDIT: THE ART OF NEW AGE MYTHS