NEWARK, N.J. – A $40,000 painting left at a Newark Liberty International Airport TSA security checkpoint was returned to its owner earlier this week by TSA’s lost and found personnel.
The art dealer, who flew from Newark, NJ, to Hong Kong, where the painting was supposed to go up for auction, phoned her husband to let him know that the painting was missing. The piece of art, painted by a well-known contemporary Chinese artist, had been rolled and placed in a hard cardboard canister for transport by hand. The woman didn’t know where she may have lost the painting, although she was fairly certain that she left it somewhere in the airport terminal.
The passenger’s husband, who was still in the United States, reached out to the airline to ask if they might have spotted the painting at the departure gate or the airline lounge, but it was not there. The airline representative contacted TSA’s lost and found office for Newark Liberty International Airport and sure enough, the tube had been left at the TSA security checkpoint and had been turned over to TSA’s lost and found office.
The man said he watched his wife go through the security checkpoint, but he didn’t notice that she had moved the painting from a gray case to a cardboard box. So when he contacted the airline, Port Authority Police and TSA’s lost and found office, “I didn’t realize I was describing it inaccurately, so I had them chasing the wrong thing. It wasn’t in a gray case at all, rather it was in a cardboard case,” he said.
The Waretown, NJ, resident said he was “absolutely happy to hear it had been found” and he described TSA’s lost and found representatives as “very professional and helpful” when it came to ensuring that the artwork was returned to him quickly and safely.
The owner of the painting said he expected it would be put up for auction sometime later this year.
This is the third high-value item that TSA officials at Newark have been able to reunite with their owners within the last year. A four-carat diamond ring, a diamond-studded gold watch and now this original painting have all been returned after being left behind. The more common items left behind at checkpoints include glasses, belts, keys, mobile phones, hats, identification and laptops.
“We’re always glad when we can help reunite passengers with their lost belongings, regardless of the value of the item,” said TSA Federal Security Director Thomas Carter.
Travelers who think they may have left one of their belongings at a TSA checkpoint can find out who to contact at each airport by visiting the TSA Lost and Found web page.