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LIVE FROM THE HEADLINES

Missing Works of Art Returned

Aired June 2, 2003 - 19:54   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.

ANDERSON COOPER, CNN ANCHOR: Now, if you get off the subway in New York City and you leave something behind, chances are you've seen the last of it. If somebody returns what you lost, it becomes a national news story. Really. You're about to see why. This is the tale of a New York man who beat the odds, and he has a fellow New Yorker to thank for it. CNN's Jason Carroll explains.
(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JASON CARROLL, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Picasso and Matisse. Friends, rivals, brought together during a recent museum show. The names brought together again, by a man who returned these works of art, and the man who lost them.

WILLIAM BAILEY, ART FRAMER: It was like a Hitchcock movie.

CARROLL: That was last Thursday, when art framer William Bailey boarded the subway, but left his portfolio case on the platform. Inside, a Picasso print, exact value unknown, and a painting by Henri Matisse's great granddaughter Sophie, worth more than $6,000.

SOPHIE MATISSE, ARTIST: I thought, oh my god, what kind of a framer is this? But, you know, sometimes those things happen. And he just took a chance and just went into the subway and thought, just take a subway, maybe it was rush hour or something.

CARROLL: Bailey cried, prayed, and put out flyers for the lost works, offering $1,000 reward. Enter Paul Abiboutrous, a sidewalk book seller, who came across the portfolio case thanks to two unidentified men.

PAUL ABIBOUTROUS, BOOKSELLER: I was working and they left it there. Little bit later they said, do whatever you want with that. And they're gone.

CARROLL: On Sunday, Abiboutrous's wife recognized the contents of the case from news reports. The couple called Bailey, who was more than grateful to hear from them.

BAILEY: People are great. New York's great. This is the best New York story you could print, put in the paper, do anything about.

CARROLL: He's not the only one who's smiling.

JUDY WALD, ADVERTISING CONSULTANT: I actually was thinking of in the hallway here. CARROLL: Judy Wald, the owner of the Picasso, says the print may have more sentimental value than monetary worth. It was a wedding present.

WALD: Several weddings ago.

CARROLL: This is not the first time artistic pieces have been lost commuting in Manhattan. Classical music superstar Yo Yo Ma left his $2.5 million cello in the trunk of a taxi four years ago. He got it back. Now these, too, will go to their rightful owners.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

CARROLL: And Abiboutrous explained a little bit more about returning the artwork. He told me, look, he said, I did what any good New Yorker would have done. Anderson?

COOPER: I guess that's true. But there's still two New Yorkers out there who found this thing and whose names are still not known, right?

CARROLL: Yes, there's still two bad New Yorkers out there. They could have kept it, and the good thing is, at least they put it on the side and left it with someone who did the right thing. So that's what you have to remember.

COOPER: Absolutely. All right, Jason Carroll, thanks very much. Definitely a New York tale.

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