Han van Meegeren was a legendary art forger who sold fake Old Master paintings to the Nazis during the occupation of the Netherlands, once cheating Hermann Göring out of over a million guilders. He is now celebrated as a Dutch national hero.
In Japan, some have the status of the Living National Treasures of Japan. They are individuals and groups certified by the government, who are masters of a traditional art or craft that is in danger of being lost. As a reward, they receive a small amount of money from the government annually.
The painting “The Scream” was stolen the same day as the opening of the 1994 Olympics; the thieves left a note saying “thanks for the poor security”.
Leonardo da Vinci’s “Salvator Mundi” was sold at auction in 1958 for £45, and again in 2005 for under $10,000. In 2011, it was authenticated as a Leonardo original. It was then sold in 2013 for $75 million, sold again for $127.5 million, and later sold at auction in 2017 for $450.3 million.
Michelangelo hid under the Medici Chapel in Florence for 3 months during a period of political turmoil, occupying his time by sketching on the walls with charcoal. His whereabouts were a secret for almost 500 years until the museum director stumbled upon the drawings in 1976.
In 2003, a woman found a stolen painting worth $1 million in the trash on a NYC curb. She felt it “had power” and took it without knowing its origin or value. She spent 4 years researching it and discovered it’d been stolen in 1987. She got a $15,000 reward plus a % of its $1,049,000 sale price.
When the artist, Melanie Willhide, got her stolen laptop back, all her files were deleted by the burglar. Data recovery experts were able to recover some of them. The photos were corrupted, but she decided to exhibit the work. The show was titled after the burglar.
In 1995, an artist named William Utermohlen was diagnosed with Alzheimer’s disease. He continued to make art for the last few years of his life, both as documentation of his daily life and of his decline in cognitive function. Looking through these pieces, you can trace his cognitive changes.
The actor who played Furio on the Sopranos once discovered a painting in a museum had been mislabeled. He bought it for $70k and it ended up being worth $10 million.
Serbian artist Uroš Predić made a painting of drunks in his village returning home from the pub at dawn. He hoped the painting would convince them to change their ways but instead they ended up loving it. Some even complimented how accurate it was.