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Toronto police are searching for a woman who stole a rock from the Gardiner Museum, on display as part of a Yoko Ono exhibition. Inscribed with the message, “Love Yourself,” written in the artist’s own hand, the small stone is valued at $17,500 US. It is just one of many river stones that make up Ono’s installation, THE RIVERBED, which opened at the museum in late February (it was first presented in New York in late 2015).
The thief is described as a 55- to 60-year-old woman who stands at five feet and four inches in height, according to a Toronto Police Service news release. She was seen stealing the rock on the afternoon of Monday, March 12, while wearing a red scarf and black hat.
It’s possible that this was a crime carried out in the heat of passion. Like much of Ono’s practice, THE RIVERBED centers on collaboration, encouraging viewers to engage intimately with artworks. In one room, visitors are invited to mend broken ceramic cups (“Mend Piece”); in another, strings, hammers, and nails are laid out for people to create lines in space (“Line Piece”). “Stone Piece,” where river stones each carry words of inspiration, welcomes museumgoers to pick up a stone and hold it while “concentrating on the word and letting go of their anger or fear,” as per a press release. People are supposed to return them to the installation once their moment of contemplation is over.
The theft occurred shortly before the museum’s closing time, which may provide a further clue to a motive: perhaps the woman was so taken by the rock’s message, she decided she needed more time to meditate on loving herself.
Hyperallergic has reached out to both the museum and Galerie Lelong, which represents Yoko Ono, for comment. We will update this story when we receive more information.