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​Trash & treasure: Hong Kong cops scour landfill for $3.7mn painting

​Trash & treasure: Hong Kong cops scour landfill for $3.7mn painting
Police in Hong Kong are searching through a landfill site after cleaners allegedly tossed a multi-million dollar painting in the trash. The ink-wash painting ‘Snowy Mountain’ had been auctioned off the day before for US$3.7 million.

The painting, by Chinese artist Cui Ruzhou, was reported missing to the police on Tuesday amid reports it had been thrown out by cleaners in Hong Kong’s Grand Hyatt Hotel. Police, trawling through CCTV camera history, later discovered footage of a security guard kicking a package containing the valuable piece of artwork towards a pile of rubbish.

Hotel cleaners were then caught on camera throwing out the rubbish, which is thought to have been sent to a landfill site at Tuen Mun in the north-west of Hong Kong, reports the South China Morning Post. Police have registered the painting as ‘lost property’ for the time being and have not ruled out the possibility it could have been stolen.

The hotel said it was not responsible for the loss of the painting and that exhibitors handle the installation and dismantling of their own auction items.

"As the organizer has rented our event venue for this auction, Grand Hyatt Hong Kong is doing its best to offer assistance to [the company] Poly Auction, including letting the police view the CCTV footage along with our security team," a statement from the hotel said.

The Chinese ink-wash painting had been sold off the previous day for $3.7 million at a special auction that featured 28 works by Cui Ruzhou. The painting ‘Landscape in Snow’ was sold for the highest price, fetching over $23 million and setting a new record for Ruzhou.

Lost & found

Last week two paintings worth over $50 million – one by Paul Gauguin – were recovered in Italy after more than 40 years missing. The two works were stolen from a London residence in 1970 and subsequently turned up unrecognized in the lost property department of an Italian train station in 1975. The pair were then auctioned off to a Fiat factory worker for a meager $33.

The two paintings spent the next 30 years hanging in the man’s kitchen until his son recognized similarities with other Gauguins and turned the multi-million-dollar artworks over to the authorities.