The suspects in the theft captured walking down a street near the gallery (image courtesy NYPD)

A couple visited a New York gallery and casually attempted to walk out with an original artwork by Jean-Michel Basquiat.

On Saturday, May 14, a man and a woman entered Taglialatella Galleries in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood and proceeded to take a Basquiat screenprint off the wall. They were intercepted by a gallery worker on their way out.

“It was pretty brazen. We’ve had stuff stolen from the gallery before but nothing quite this obvious,” Taglialatella Galleries owner Brian Swarts told Hyperallergic. “Luckily my staff is quite attentive and courageous and one of the brave young women who work here literally pulled the piece from the guy’s hand.”

Basquiat’s “Dog Leg Study” (1982/2019) in the gallery office (photo courtesy Taglialatella Galleries)

Measuring about three and a half feet wide framed, “Dog Leg Study” (1982/2019) was hanging in Swarts’s office, which also functions as a private viewing room for clients. Security camera footage showed the unidentified thieves making their way past the gallery’s public exhibition space and into the empty office, where they appeared to assess the artwork’s value by taking a photo and looking up details on their phone.

They then lifted the piece off the wall and walked toward the gallery exit, also taking with them “about a third of a bottle of Maker’s Mark,” Swarts said.

“Dog Leg Study” is valued at $45,000. In a news release, NYPD described the couple as having “an unknown European accent” and released surveillance footage showing the pair holding hands and walking down a street near the gallery.

A spokesperson for the New York City Police Department (NYPD) told Hyperallergic that there have been no arrests and the investigation remains ongoing.

It wasn’t the first time the gallery grappled with a robbery attempt. Last year, someone tried to purloin a Kaws figurine that was on display. “That’s typically what people try to steal, small sculptures or pieces they can put in a hoodie or a backpack,” Swarts continued. “But never a work that was framed like that.”

At the end of the day, though, Swarts said, “They made it out with a little bit of whiskey but nothing else. All is well.”

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is Co-Editor of News at Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

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