Bookmark and Share

Bob O'Connell
An education in the Arts leads to a career in international fine art crime solving

Feature Stories Past Feature Stories
Bob O'Connell

"Our job is hands on, we get to roll up our sleeves and at times our pant legs to rescue significant works of art that many people only study in art history. We have a three dimensional experience with the work of art."

Bob O'Connell

Ever wonder what happens to fine art after it is stolen or damaged? Or perhaps you have considered how an art museum might save priceless paintings and sculptures in the midst of a natural disaster. For Bob O’Connell ’82 these are just some of the situations that his company is called to work on each and every day.

O’Connell travels throughout the United States and internationally as the president of O’Connell International Arts, Inc. (OIA) a business dedicated to the recovery and investigation of fine art claims within the insurance industry. Representing all sides, O’Connell works as the intermediary between private owners and museums as they work with insurance companies, local and international police and federal agencies associated with theft and the damage of art through natural disasters, thefts, frauds and other accidents. OIA has worked on some of the largest insurance frauds including the infamous Steven G. Cooperman case.

Last year Lloyd’s of London hired OIA to coordinate the evacuation of art from the University of Iowa’s Museum of Art during the 2008 flood. OIA had three days to remove the highest valued art, including a Jackson Pollack piece valued at millions of dollars, before massive flooding overwhelmed the building. As flood waters receded, O’Connell’s team returned to the museum now infested with mold, mud and no electricity. Working with respirators, rubber gloves and hard hats with headlamps OIA proceeded to empty the entire museum over the next sixty days, relocating all of the museum’s holdings across state lines. As a fine art expert, O’Connell and his company are often called in to situations such as this, time sensitive situations that require quick action to limit the damage to art. OIA coordinates and supervises the fine art conservators and other vendors associated with the claims.

Bob O'Connell

Bob O'Connell shared how his education in English, history and art provided him the passion and skills necessary to succeed in a variety of fields and led to him being one of only a handful of fine arts experts working in this industry.

O’Connell graduated from the University of San Diego in 1982 with a Bachelor of Arts in English. He followed this degree with a Master of Arts in Art History. At the time O’Connell wasn’t sure how his education and love of art would lead to a career. Now, fifteen years after starting OIA, O’Connell works in an industry where he can nurture his passion for the arts, while interacting with a variety of people throughout the world. One of the exciting aspects of this business is the work O’Connell and his team does directly with fine art pieces. "Our job is hands on," says O’Connell. "We get to roll up our sleeves and at times our pant legs to rescue significant works of art that many people only study in art history. We have a three dimensional experience with the work of art."

O’Connell recently returned to USD as part of an alumni panel discussion that met with students and parents regarding the value of a liberal arts education. He shared how his education in English, history and art provided him the passion and skills necessary to succeed in a variety of fields and led to him being one of only a handful of fine arts experts working in this industry.

As a member of the Alumni Board, O’Connell and his wife Darci, recently hosted two events in Chicago to establish the first scholarship for the arts at USD. Raising approximately $21,000 to date, for USD student art scholarships, this is in addition to the $10,000 raised last year by the O’Connells for The Kyle O’Connell Memorial Scholarship. The Chicago events were held at The Architrouve, a gallery owned by the O’Connells. The mission of The Architrouve is to embrace and promote the creative process as reflected in the art and culture of Chicago. The O’Connells actively collect art and are patrons of the arts.

-Lyndsey Scully