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Police recover artwork stolen in 2007

(MCT) — As someone who works in the world of fine art, Madeline Kisting didn't expect to find herself playing a role in a police sting.

But when the Feb. 14 sting led to the retrieval of a stolen $85,000 sculpture that belongs to an estate Kisting manages, the Northbrook woman was thankful to be on hand to identify it.

"We felt unbelievable," Kisting said. "We just assumed we would never see it again."

The bronze sculpture, Ex Nihilo (Out of Nothing) Fragment No. 2, was stolen in 2007 from a now-shuttered gallery in Chicago.

The piece had been cast from a plaster used in a larger series of Creation Sculptures that adorn the Washington National Cathedral. At the time of the theft, the piece had been at the gallery for less than year on a loan from Northbrook-based Chase Art Cos. The estate of the artist who created them, Frederick Hart, is managed by Kisting, who works for a company owned by Chase.

Northbrook police spokesman Michael Shep said the case was cold until a few weeks ago, when a Chicago man contacted an art dealer in Minnesota to sell the piece.

The dealer knew that the work had been stolen and called Kisting, who contacted police.

An officer pretending to be an art appraiser then went to the home of the Chicago man, Shep said. When the officer revealed his identity, the man cooperated with police, and he has not been charged. Shep said there was no proof that the man was the one who had stolen the artwork.

The sculpture is now with the Northbrook company and soon will be placed in other museums and exhibits, Kisting said.

Hart, who died in 1999, is best known for Three Soldiers, part of the Vietnam Veterans Memorial in Washington. Hart was posthumously awarded the National Medal of Arts, the U.S. government's highest award for artists and patrons.

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