This 1950s/'60s painting, which is unrelated to the art discovery made by Albuquerque police, is an example of Alfred Morris Momaday's (Native American, 1913-1981) artistic style. It depicts a Kiowa Indian dancer and was sold at auction on Oct. 16, 2010. Image courtesy of LiveAuctioneers Archive and R.G. Munn Auction, Mayhill, N.M.

N.M. police stumble upon $33K art portfolio at old meth lab

BEVERLY HILLS, Calif. – Asia Week in New York attracts a global contingent of art buyers who travel many thousands of miles – primarily from China – to immerse themselves in a frenzied schedule of specialty shows, exhibitions and other activities around Manhattan. But a new West Coast tradition embraced by Asian art connoisseurs over the past few years literally saves the best for last on their itineraries: I.M. Chait’s post-Asia Week auction. This year’s event, slated for Sunday, March 22, is timed so collectors can break up their long trip home from New York and bid on superb Asian antALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) – An Albuquerque officer searching a former meth lab stumbled upon artwork by late American Indian artist Alfred Morris ‘Al’ Momaday that likely was stolen and worth more than $30,000, police said.

Police said the officer found the valuable prints last week during a protective sweep of the condemned apartment right before city official were to board up the property. Authorities say the building was deemed uninhabitable for two years following the discovery of a methamphetamine lab.

According to police, the officer spotted an art portfolio case containing Momaday prints on the floor. The officer googled Momaday’s name and discovered he was a Mountain View, Oklahoma-born Kiowa painter 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. Investigators believe the art might have been stolen while on loan.

Momaday’s paintings depicting his Native American heritage have gained international acclaim and are featured 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 American Indian 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.

In recent years, the abandoned building where the prints were found had been used as a drug den and a place to store stolen goods, authorities said.

No arrests have been made. The case remains under investigation.

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