Epic art heist in Black Mountain College laundry room

“The artist Dorothea Rockburne… first met Robert Rauschenberg during their student days at Black Mountain College, the fabled school near Asheville, N.C., that was briefly the epicenter of the American avant-garde. One day, Ms. Rockburne was in the college laundry room unloading her wash from the dryer when she realized that her patchwork quilt was missing. ‘The next time I saw it was at the Leo Castelli Gallery,’ she recently recalled in a tone of disbelief, referring to the public debut of ‘Bed.’  ‘My first thought was: Son of a bitch! We were close friends.’

“In his defense, Rauschenberg, who died in 2008, at 82, could have cited Picasso’s oft-quoted [if not exactly original] remark about how ‘good artists copy, great artists steal.’ Granted, Picasso was referring to the theft of ideas, as opposed to actual objects….”

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