Yesterday at around 3–4 PM, an artwork was stolen off the wall of Marc Jancou gallery. The work is a 1999 Steven Parrino drawing, Atomic Age Tarantula, rendered in pencil and enamel on vellum and valued at $30,000.
The drawing was included in the three-man show “Blankness is Not a Void,” which features works by Parrino, Raymond Pettibon and Scott Campbell. Many are small works on paper hung in group configurations. The stolen piece was hung on the front wall, which made it easy for the thief to slip in and out quickly.
According to Jancou, there were four staff members in the gallery at the time. “This shows the vulnerability of all galleries in Chelsea, especially ground floor spaces,” he said. Police told Jancou that there have been other thefts on 24th Street over the past 10 days. “They think it’s a fairly organized operation, with more than one person, and that they scope out the premises in advance,” Jancou said.
Art in America was unable to verify other thefts with the NYPD before this posting but, according to one anonymous source, there has been gossip. A few galleries on 24th Street were reticent to comment on the thefts or gallery security in general.
It’s not uncommon for galleries to be the targets of sticky fingers, with frequent reports of stolen computer equipment and wallets. In one case, about five years ago, a Nan Goldin work was stolen off the wall near the entry of Matthew Marks Gallery on 22nd Street, a source close to the gallery told A.i.A. at the time. As reported on Artinfo.com, Jonathan LeVine had two works swiped from his 20th Street gallery in 2008, and in 2006 a fashion-savvy thief made off with a pair of $3,000 Gucci loafers that were part of an installation by John Findysz at Kathleen Cullen Fine Arts on 26th Street.
Sara Jo Romero of Schroeder Romero & Shredder told A.i.A. that in 2006 a “crackhead” stole a Kim MacConnel collage “that had $150 worth of cash making up the main image of the piece.” The gallery, then on 27th Street, was located in the Tunnel building, which, with multiple exits, provided an easy escape route. Romero speculated, “I’m sure he stole it to get the cash and threw the rest away,” adding, “I would have given him the money in order to save the art, which was valued at around $3,500.” That same man was also behind the theft of a wallet from a staff member of neighboring Clementine gallery, Romero said. “It is a problem because we get engrossed in something or have to turn our backs or go to another area of the gallery,” she said, “and everything is vulnerable, from artwork to tools to office equipment.”
As the sleepy summer season approaches, and with many dealers and staff currently at the Hong Kong fair and soon to be in Basel and Venice, it’s a reminder for galleries to be extra vigilant.
Steven Parrino, Atomic Age Tarantula, 1999. Pencil and enamel on vellum. Courtesy Marc Jancou