Theft of paintings from Borduas and Riopelle: the collector explains

A Montreal art collector reluctantly found himself at the center of a criminal investigation as he possessed, probably unknowingly, works by famous painters Borduas and Riopelle, stolen 25 years ago.

The great art lover, who agreed to tell us his story in exchange for his anonymity, has a bitter taste for this endless investigation that ended this week.

The story goes back to 2004, when it acquired “L’autel aux idolâtres”, an oil on canvas painted in 1946 by Paul-Émile Borduas, and “Plumage d’Or”, made in 1988 by Jean-Paul Riopelle. , in a gallery in the metropolis.

The Altar of Idolaters, by Paul-Émile Borduas, was stolen from Jean-Paul Riopelle in 1997.

courtesy photo

The Altar of Idolaters, by Paul-Émile Borduas, was stolen from Jean-Paul Riopelle in 1997.

“If I remember correctly, I paid about $40,000 for the Borduas and $15,000 for the Riopelles,” he says.

Today, these works could be worth about $100,000 for the first and $40,000 for the second, according to Alain Lacoursière, a retired police officer turned art appraiser.

justify the price

In 2019, the collector contacted an expert to appraise “L’autel aux idolâtres”. He wanted to give it to a friend, but first he had to be sure of its authenticity in order to justify the price.

The man was quickly disillusioned when he learned that it was, in fact, a work of art stolen in 1997, from none other than Jean-Paul Riopelle himself. He was also informed that his other painting, “Plumage d’Or”, was also part of the stolen goods from the legendary painter’s house-studio in Sainte-Marguerite-du-Lac-Masson, in the Laurentians.

” In good faith “

As he was living in Europe at the time of the crime, he states that he had never heard of a robbery of the famous painter before.

“I acquired this in good faith a long time ago and everything fell on me due to an audit,” launches the man who would have naively exhibited the works in his residence for all these years. Let’s just say I don’t really have good memories of the last few years. The police wanted to put me on trial, but I didn’t do anything wrong. »

In fact, the Sûreté du Québec wanted to charge him with a cover-up, but the Director of Criminal and Penal Prosecutions (DPCP) considered that the evidence was not sufficient. The file was thus closed.

As an insurance company had indemnified Jean-Paul Riopelle for the Borduas robbery in 1997, an international company specializing in the search for stolen or lost works of art was mandated to recover the work. In the end, an agreement was signed between the two parties and the Quebec collector will keep the painting, which will be delivered to him next week after being “frozen” in a lawyer’s office for several months. As for the second stolen canvas, the one from Riopelle, the man claims to have the right to keep it as well. With few exceptions, Quebec law states that we become owners of the property when it is in our possession for three years.

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