Sotheby's inquiry over lost painting

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The Independent Online

The auctioneers Sotheby's has launched an internal investigation after it was discovered that a £500,000 Old Master painting was lost. Police and the painting's owner have been informed of its disappearance but police will not formally investigate unless the auction house's own probe suggests foul play.

The work had been consigned for sale and was in storage. It is understood that it went missing within the last few days.

A spokeswoman said: "An Old Master has gone missing. We have contacted the police. We're looking into it and doing everything we can to locate the painting."

The auction house deals with around 50,000 objects a year.

However, it is not unprecedented for artworks handed to professionals to go missing.

The artist Anish Kapoor has just discovered that a wood and cement sculpture, Hole and Vessel, has been lost after its new owner put it in the care of a storage company, Fine Arts Logistics.And dozens of artists lost works when the Momart storage facility in London went up in flames in May 2004.