Native American artist’s work worth $33,000 found in New Mexico meth lab
The Guardian, February 6, 2015
A police officer searching a former meth lab in Albuquerque, New Mexico stumbled upon artwork by the late Native American artist Alfred Morris Momaday that was worth more than $30,000 and was probably stolen.
The officer found the valuable prints last week during a protective sweep of the condemned apartment before city officials were due to board it up. Authorities say the building was deemed uninhabitable for two years following the discovery of a methamphetamine lab there.
According to police, the officer spotted a portfolio containing Momaday prints on the floor. The officer did an internet search for Momaday’s name and discovered he was a Kiowa painter born in Mountain View, Oklahoma who died in 1981.
“Knowing this, and knowing all the history about this apartment, I knew [whoever] left this property behind had no lawful reason to be in possession of this [artwork],” the officer wrote in his report.
The officer took the prints to an Albuquerque Museum curator who valued them at $33,000 (£22,000).
Investigators believe the art might have been stolen while on loan. They are still trying to determine who it belongs to and what to do with it.
Momaday’s paintings depicting his Native American heritage have gained international acclaim and are in galleries around the country. He also created plaques for Albuquerque churches.
A teacher, Momaday married Natachee Scott at Jemez Pueblo and helped bring Native American art lessons to New Mexico.
He is the father of N Scott Momaday, the first Native American to win a Pulitzer prize for literature.
An assistant to N Scott Momaday told the Albuquerque Journal that the author believes some items were stolen from him during a recent move to Santa Fe. However, he wasn’t sure if those items included artwork by his father.