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

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.

Independent curator, Cat Weaver is the Brooklyn-based writer and editor of The Art Machine, a blog that covers the art market in all of its gossipy glory. Formerly Cat wrote How To Talk About Art for Sugarzine,...

11 replies on “Dalí Thief Mails It Back to Gallery”

    1. 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…

  1. 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.

  2. 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.

  3. 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.

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