NBC 5 Responds

Nearly $30K Worth of Art From Chicago Artist Goes Missing in Shipping Mystery

The work was painted by a late Chicago artist and lost by a nationwide shipping giant

NBC Universal, Inc.

Chicago native Alvia Baker knows how she lost her son, the late artist and collector Derrick Joshua Beard. He died of complications due to cancer, back in 2018.

But Baker said she has no idea how shipping giant FedEx recently lost two of her son’s most valuable paintings, which she entrusted to the company and were in transit to her.

Baker said FedEx has refused to answer any specific questions about the missing boxes, or offer any assistance in helping locate them.

The question has haunted her, she said, since the day the artwork went missing last October.

“I've been tossing and turning saying who, God, who's gonna be able to really to bring the light out here,” Baker told NBC 5 Responds.

Baker paid more than $1,100 to ship four large pieces of her son’s artwork to her from a FedEx in Oak Lawn. The boxes were large, weighing a total of 68 pounds.

She said she paid to insure the shipment against damage, but not total disappearance. Only two of the four made it to her front door, she said.

“How do you lose two boxes and the boxes are nearly tall as I am? I'm five-feet-five,” she said, in a show-n-tell video to help illustrate how large the missing shipping boxes are.

Baker’s quest to find the missing art goes deeper than just the value of the two missing pieces of art, which were professionally appraised by auction houses to be worth more than $29,000.

The workers were also two of the last reminders she has from her late son. Baker said she does not want the money; she wants to locate the art and bring it to her current home in Nevada.

Beard was a renowned artist as well as collector of Afro-centric art. He was 59 when he lost his battle with cancer. His family said he packed a lot into those years, traveling the world and sharing his passion for Afro-centric art.

“We don't want this art to come up on an auction or somewhere or someone, because it will be stolen. We can't have that. No way,” Baker told NBC 5 Responds.

So where is the art now? That is a question Baker said she has asked FedEx since the day it went missing, Oct. 24, 2020, to no avail.

She said FedEx has refused to answer her specific questions regarding its search for the missing boxes, and any related internal inquiries.

FedEx also declined to answer NBC5’s repeated inquiries. The company would not say if it reviewed security camera footage in any of its facilities, interviewed employees involved in the transport or filed any police reports.

When Baker reported the boxes missing to FedEx, she says the company told her to file a claim form. One of its representatives directed her to get an appraisal for each missing item, which she says she did at her own personal expense of $1200.

She said FedEx then sent her two checks, written to the wrong name, in the amount of $600, which equals about half of what she paid in shipping fees.

The company acknowledged that error, then re-issued two more checks, which went to the wrong address. 

FedEx issued the following two statements to NBC5 Responds in late February:

“We extend our deepest sympathies to Ms. Baker over the loss of her son and apologize for the inconvenience this has caused her. The safe and secure transport of our customers’ shipments is one of our top priorities. Regretfully, despite attempts to recover these packages, our efforts have been unsuccessful. We worked directly with the customer to file a claim and are working to reach a resolution on this matter.”

Regarding the check typo, the company said the following:

“We regret this error and are working with the customer to issue her a new check.”

Later, the company added: “We continue to regret the inconvenience this has caused Ms. Baker and that our attempts to recover these packages have been unsuccessful. We have completed the claims process and are in direct contact with Ms. Baker to reach a resolution on this matter. Per company policy, we do not publicly discuss specific details of customer shipments or interactions. Information about our claims process can be found on page 173 of the FedEx Service Guide.”

Baker said FedEx has not explained to her how it arrived at the amount of $600. She said she hopes this report gets the word out and can lead her back to the missing artwork, since the company which last had it in its possession considers the efforts to locate the boxes closed.

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