On Tuesday a man dressed casually in a black and white buffalo plaid shirt and jeans, who made no effort whatsoever to disguise himself, walked into the Venus Over Manhattan art gallery, took a Salvador Dali painting off the wall, put it in a bag, and walked out. No one noticed. No chase, no arrest, no nothing.
The painting is a 1949 piece titled “Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio.” It was part of the gallery’s inaugural exhibit, and is valued at $150,000.
Whenever I’m in a museum and I see a small work of art, one that would fit in a bag, the thought invariably crosses my mind—what would happen if I just grabbed this thing and ran? I would never do it, of course, it’s just what Edgar Allen Poe called the imp of the perverse sitting on my shoulder. This guy was obviously listening to more voices than the spontaneous imp since he showed up at the gallery with an empty bag, but it’s incredible that when he took it off the wall, bagged it and ran, no one even noticed. I guess the lesson here is if you’re going to be an art thief, start at galleries before you make your way up to museums.
Of course, with the guy’s face captured in plain view and an NYPD manhunt underway, he’ll likely be caught and the painting restored before long.