$1 Million Worth of Art Stolen in 1989 Is Recovered


More than $1 million worth of stolen art and antiques--ranging from an 18th-Century harpsichord to paintings by Chagall and Matisse--were returned to Los Angeles police on Wednesday, five years after they disappeared from a La Cienega Boulevard gallery, police said.

LAPD Detective Barbara Bella said the items had been missing since 1989, when Richard Eszterhazy--owner of the Richard Eszterhazy Galleries--closed up shop for a three-week vacation and never returned. Police discovered that the cultured Englishman had absconded with more than 1,000 items that had been left by clients for future auction.

Eszterhazy, the detective said, has eluded capture since then, despite the issuance last year of an international grand theft warrant for his arrest. The artworks, she said, were later traced to Eszterhazy’s wife’s hometown of Cologne, Germany, and eventually turned up in warehouses in Dusseldorf and Bonn.


Bella said the items included works by such masters as Chagall, Matisse and Klee, but the majority of the pieces were lesser works of the sort described by Edward Goldfield, a Melrose Avenue gallery owner who was one of Eszterhazy’s victims.

Goldfield said he had given Eszterhazy some “secondary things, things I wasn’t anxious to hang at an exhibit,” after another art dealer had recommended him. When Eszterhazy’s gallery closed, Goldfield said, he was told that the dealer was planning to reopen in larger quarters.

“But he just took off,” Goldfield said. Eventually, he said, he called the police, reporting the theft of between $35,000 and $50,000 worth of paintings.

Goldfield said Wednesday he is glad about the recovery of the art but is not sure what he will do with it now that it is safe again.

“They won’t be things I’ll offer to customers,” he said.