University of Arizona Museum of Art

It was one of the most audacious and puzzling crimes of a generation. 

In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,” one of the most valuable paintings of the 20th century, vanished into the desert of southern Arizona after being cut from its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Over 32 years later, the painting was rediscovered in the unlikeliest of places.

The documentary, The Thief Collector unravels the deeper layers of this infamous heist, exploring the complicated dynamics of family, the contours of criminality, and just how far people are willing to go to weave their own grandiose narratives.

A conversation with the film’s director Allison Otto and producer Caryn Capotosto with Texas Tribune Editor-in-Chief Sewell Chan will give a behind-the-scenes look at this much anticipated documentary at the Wonder House on Saturday night. The film premiers on Sunday at SXSW.

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de Kooning documentary drops at SXSW 2022

de Kooning documentary drops movie poster

In 1985, Willem de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre,” one of the most valuable paintings of the 20th century, vanished into the Arizona desert after being cut from its frame at the University of Arizona Museum of Art. Thirty-two years later, the $160 million painting was found hanging in the home of Jerry and Rita Alter in rural New Mexico. The Thief Collector takes a deep look at how, and why, this mild-mannered couple pulled off one of the greatest art heists of a generation, exploring the complicated dynamics of family, the contours of criminality, and just how far people will go to weave their own grandiose narratives.

Otto is an Emmy winning documentary filmmaker, cinematographer, and visual journalist.  Her documentary short, The Love Bugs (2019), was awarded Best Short Documentary in the 42nd Annual News & Documentary Emmy Awards after screening on POV Shorts Season 3 (2020). The film was also shortlisted for a 2019 International Documentary Association Award and is touring globally with the American Film Showcase. Allison is a 2019 recipient of the SFFILM Catapult Film Fellowship, a 2018 and 2011 Telluride Mountainfilm Commitment grant recipient, and a 2018 Roy W. Dean grant winner.

Capotosto is an Emmy Award-winning producer of Won’t You Be My Neighbor? The feature documentary about Mister Rogers won a 2019 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, a Producers Guild Award and a 2018 Critics’ Choice Award for Best Documentary. She received a 2021 News and Documentary Emmy for her role as Executive Producer on the The Love Bugs and 2016. News and Documentary Emmy Award for her role as co-producer on Best of Enemies.

Woman-Ochre returning to UAMA in the fall

After more than two years of careful restoration by the conservators at the Getty Museum and scientists at the Getty Conservation Institute, de Kooning’s “Woman-Ochre” returns to the UAMA this fall!