News

Dalí Thief Mails It Back to Gallery

by Cat Weaver on July 2, 2012

CCTV footage marks the time of departure (Image credit NY Daily News)

Venus Over Manhattan opened it’s doors for the first time on May 9, with a swanky opening reception for À rebours. Inspired by J.K. Huysmans’s famously decadent novel of the same name, it is a ballsy show of works ranging across centuries and continents, lit and displayed with gallery upstart Adam Lindemann’s own defiant whimsy.

On Tuesday, June 19, an equally defiant thief, posing as a customer, lifted a $150,000 Salvador Dalí watercolor-and-ink painting right off the gallery wall and blithely walked out with it poking out of a black shopping bag.

No drama

Salvador Dali’s “Cartel de Don Juan Tenirio” (via NYPost.com)

He’d simply entered the gallery during regular business hours, dressed in a check shirt and black jeans, told the security guard that he wanted to photograph the small “Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio,”  a 1949 Dali original that hung advantageously at the back of the dimly lit gallery, waited for the guard to be called away momentarily, and then lifted the piece pretty as you please.

His exit at 4:38pm is marked by the gallery’s security camera.

The New York Times reports that gallery owner, Adam Lindemann, responded with befuddlement. Marveling that the theft took place during normal business hours with a security guard present. He’s quoted as asking:

“What do you do with a stolen drawing by Dalí?”

Answer: apparently you mail it back!

The mystery was deepened on Monday when the pranked gallery received an email telling them that the painting was enroute from Europe; the whimsical informant even offered a tracking number.

So the gallery called police and police contacted postal inspectors. Dispatched to New York’s Kennedy International Airport, the inspectors were able to intercept the package on Friday and return “Don Juan” safely to the Venus. Lindemann, who said that VoM is cooperating with police on the case, has offered no further word to the press.

The peculiar art theft and the speed of its return makes you almost wonder if the painting was stolen or simply taking a short European vacation.

  • Subscribe to the Hyperallergic email newsletter!

Hyperallergic welcomes comments and a lively discussion, but comments are moderated after being posted. For more details please read our comment policy.
  • http://twitter.com/Adnan_Z_Manjal Adnan Z. Manjal

    I would like to know, why was it returned? Was it not good enough after closer inspection?
    Granted, it was not Dali’s best.

    • lululola

      many, many years ago, on a Saturday afternoon, Duchamp’s Bicycle Wheel was stolen from the museum of modern art in new york…the following morning it appeared in the sculpture garden. At the time the wall enclosing the garden was not so tall…the stolen piece was, is, a copy of the original lost…

      • lululola

        stuff happens…

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=645701875 Rui Barros

    Dali made hundreds of these “drawings”, some of them in his bathtub using the bath water to thin the watercolors; but famously just signing loads of blank papers…
    Some of those were used in doing later works or for prints.

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405617907 Cat Weaver

    I just want to point out that this Reuters story contains a very strange little story about the detective who is currently authenticating the piece: http://www.reuters.com/article/2012/06/30/us-usa-painting-dali-idUSBRE85T00I20120630

    • http://twitter.com/jilnotjill Jillian Steinhauer

      Ha! That is hilarious. Someone should make a reality TV show about that guy.

  • http://www.artatbay.com/ Danny Olda

    Three suspects:
    #1- The obvious one. Adam Lindemann masterminded the heist as a publicity stunt.
    #2- Charles Saatchi worked with Lindemann in order to artificially drive up the price of 2D art.
    #3- That police photo sort of looks like Blake Gopnik for the daily beast. I don’t think he’s cool enough to wear a shirt like that without an undershirt, though. Underarm persperation.

  • http://twitter.com/jilnotjill Jillian Steinhauer

    Sounds to me like someone was trying to pull off his own version of the Thomas Crown Affair—with far less glamour, cleverness, and sex.

    • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405617907 Cat Weaver

      Jill, I”ve seen others speculate about the same thing.
      For anyone who has not seen the movie, check it out on Imdb: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0155267/

  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405617907 Cat Weaver
  • http://www.facebook.com/profile.php?id=100000405617907 Cat Weaver

Previous post:

Next post: