SC professor helps solve million-dollar art mystery

LAURENS (WSPA) – An Upstate professor is in the spotlight after he helped solve a decade-old, multi- million dollar art mystery.

More than a dozen pieces of art were stolen in 2003 from the Hobcaw Barony.

It’s a wildlife research reserve in Georgetown County at the South Carolina coast.

Many thought the artwork was gone for good.

John Ivy sees paintings come, and paintings go.

It’s just part of the job as an auctioneer.

One Tuesday back in April, he was treated to a very special delivery in the form of three paintings.

“The consignment brought it to the auction house, and we unloaded it here,” Ivy says. “Tuesday evening my wife saw the paintings, and she was familiar with the artist, recognized the artist and told me that he did very very well at auction.”

That’s when Ivy called in his friend, Converse College professor Frazr Pajak, to take pictures of the paintings for the next auction.

But what he didn’t know was just how familiar Pajak was with these particular masterpieces.

“I was beyond words as far as excited that there she was, staring at me. You know, just there they were, the three paintings. The image of Hobcaw and Belle Baruch,” Pajak says.

Pajak had spent a year at the Hobcaw Barony sketching and knew right away those three paintings had been stolen from the home in 2003.

“It was very much a surprise, but instantly you start thinking about the responsibility you have,” Ivy says.

The FBI was notified of the stolen art, and so was the board of trustees at Hobcaw.

In total, 11 paintings were taken back to their proper home.

“The most important thing is that the paintings are recovered and are back as we speak at Hobcaw,”says Pajak.

Even though there’s a reward for recovering the paintings, the two aren’t focused on the money.

“It’s priceless. It’s a heritage for all people,” Pajak says.

The FBI is still trying to find out how the paintings got stolen.

The foundation says most of the artwork can be restored, so it can go back on display in its rightful home.

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