Artwork worth more than £600k stolen from Scottish artist found in storage locker

A massive haul of stolen artwork, worth more than £600k, by a hugely popular Scottish artist has been discovered in a storage locker.

Some of the Benjamin Creme artwork that Los Angeles Police detectives have recovered.
Some of the Benjamin Creme artwork that Los Angeles Police detectives have recovered.

Renowned for his Buddhist-inspired abstract works often in bright colours, Scots born painter Benjamin Creme died in 2016, aged 93 years old, never knowing what had happened to the more than 1,200 artworks that had mysteriously vanished.

Police in the San Fernando area of LA seized the haul of signed lithographs, after an anonymous tipster told officers the artworks, including Flame-Coloured Deva and Shakti II, were found when a storage locker kept by a late relative who had died a few years ago was cleared out.

Owner Michael Flaum, who made the lithographs, had the works returned to him earlier this week.

A spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department statement said: "Commercial Crimes detectives received a phone call about a person who discovered stolen artwork and wanted to turn the artwork over to authorities.

"The reporting person advised the artwork was previously in possession of a relative who had passed away a few years prior.

"Upon looking through the items, the reporting person discovered the artwork was stolen after visiting a law enforcement website."

The artwork had previously been listed on the FBI's national stolen art file site, but few details have been released regarding the circumstances of the initial theft.

LAPD officers are now assessing what further action is to be taken over the stolen works.

Born in Glasgow to a Russian Jewish father, who imported and exported china, and an Irish Catholic mother who experimented with spiritualism, the artist first came to international attention in 1982, when he placed full-page advertisements in newspapers around the world proclaiming a Christ-like figure, named Maitreya the World Teacher, would return to earth via a television broadcast.

At a press conference in Los Angeles, Mr Creme proclaimed the arrival of Maitreya, who had left his abode in the Himalayas in a "self-created" human body and flown from Pakistan in a jumbo jet to London, where he was working as a night porter in a hospital.

Maitreya was preparing for the "Day of Declaration", in which he would reveal himself and usher in a new age of peace and harmony, Mr Creme told a baffled audience.

Mr Creme died in London, never learning the whereabouts of nearly 1,300 stolen works of art which vanished between November 2011 and August 2012.

His work was so popular in Los Angeles that a museum was established to display his works.