Wed, 15 Mar 2000

Police search for owner of painting

JAKARTA (JP): The Police investigation of a missing "Affandi" painting has so far raised more questions than answers.

The Cilandak Police station in South Jakarta said on Tuesday they had only established that the owner of the missing painting is not Nindia, the owner of the house from where it was stolen in December.

"We have information that the owner is out of the country," head of the station, Maj. Nurhayati said.

"We will be waiting for Nindia or whoever the owner is to explain about the painting," she said, adding "It is not easy to trace a missing painting."

In February, police had to review their investigation into the theft at Nindia's house in Jl. Anggur III/30 following newspaper advertisements offering a Rp 100 million ($13,700) reward to any one who could lead to the recovery of the painting.

The advertisement, which appeared in The Jakarta Post, Kompas and Suara Pembaruan, gave a blurred black-and-white print of the painting, with a note saying that it is believed to be Affandi's, the late Indonesian master. The advertisement by PT Indonesia Megah said the piece measured 166 by 124 centimeters.

There was no mention of a missing painting when Nindia first reported the theft at her house.

Art experts are also puzzled by the case, saying that the painting as it appeared in the newspaper advertisements did not feature in any existing catalog listing Affandi's works. But they add that Affandi produced hundreds of paintings.

Most of them, as reported by Kompas, have difficulties in making judgment based on a blurred photograph of the painting.

Police have now written to Nindia asking her come to the station to help with their investigation but she has not responded and the house on Jl. Anggur is empty.

"Since she is not a suspect, we cannot do anything," Nurhayati said.

Indonesia Megah, which placed the advertisement, refused to comment when contacted by phone on Tuesday.

"I'm afraid I can't help you with that, sorry," said a woman who identified herself as Dina.

Earlier this year, a museum curator who preferred anonymity said that a painting by Basuki Abdullah, another noted painter, had been stolen from the Presidential Palace in Jakarta but was later retrieved in an art gallery in Bali.

The stolen painting, a portrait of a former actress turned faith-healer, was returned to the palace by the gallery owner.

The theft, that, according to the official, was obviously committed by an insider, was not reported to the police. The offender was immediately discharged.

Basuki Abdullah, one of few Indonesian naturalist painters to win international fame, painted portraits of world leaders like former Indonesian presidents, Sukarno and Soeharto, Thai King Bhumibol Adulyadej, Pope John Paul II and the late queen Juliana of the Netherlands.

Basuki was murdered on Nov. 7 1993 at his home in Cilandak, South Jakarta. (09/ego)