Here is a challenging problem: I want to find out who owns a painting. The painting in question is a minor work by an important European impressionist-era artist. If it were to be auctioned today, it would probably sell for at least $2 million. It was last seen when it sold at auction in the early 1980s. However, the buyer was private and anonymous.
I have sent emails to academic specialists who are experts in the artist and they do not respond to my messages. I talked to one professor who is an expert in 19th-century fine art and she told me that a few key European dealers probably know who has the painting, but they will not reveal anything to me because they consider such information to be a professional or trade secret.
I sent an email inquiry to a famous Dutch "art detective" offering to hire him to identify the painting's owner, but he made no answer to my inquiry.
So, I am stumped. How do I find out who owns the painting? Legally, of course.