Vermeer's The Concert

Vermeer's The Concert

Monday, September 28, 2009

Stolen Art Watch, Yorkville Gallery Toronto, Latest Victim in Pandemic Art Theft !!!

Thieves take paintings in Yorkville gallery smash-and-grab

Posted: September 28, 2009, 9:43 AM by Rob Roberts

By Megan O'Toole, National Post

A brazen overnight smash-and-grab at an art gallery in Yorkville yesterday netted thieves more than $50,000 in rare paintings.

All three were composed by ailing Quebecois artist Pierre Gauvreau, whose abstract work was on display for a retrospective show at Gallery Gevik that opened the previous day. Mr. Gauvreau's wife and agent, Janine Carreau, was devastated to find out about the theft yesterday afternoon in a phone call with the National Post.

"No, no," Ms. Carreau said from the couple's Montreal home. "This is incredible.... This is very awful. It breaks the show down. These were the most rare pieces."

The Gevik show marked the 30th anniversary of Mr. Gauvreau's first solo exhibition in Toronto in 1979 at the Hazelton Avenue Gallery, the same building that now houses Gevik.

Police say thieves smashed the main window and grabbed the most easily accessible works, including the 32-inch-by-32-inch City in Turmoil (above), an $18,000 acrylic-on-canvas work that was on display in the gallery's front window.

The other two acrylic-on-paper works, each valued at $16,500, were titled Night Stuck Between Daylight and Ballad for John Wayne. All were originals from the early 1980s, and Mr. Gauvreau did not make any copies of the paintings, his wife said.

Gallery owner Phillip Gevik said his alarm went off around 1:30 a.m., and police arrived soon afterward. No one in the area reported hearing or seeing anything suspicious around that time, he said.

The gallery was not equipped with a video camera, Toronto Police Detective Jamie McCormack said, but authorities were planning to check surveillance video from surrounding stores for clues.

This type of burglary has become something of a regular occurrence in Yorkville's high-end art galleries, Det. McCormack said -- and the crime has also been rising throughout Canada.

"Generally these kinds of art thefts of originals go to a specific place; they don't generally end up in dealerships," Det. McCormack said. "They're stolen for a specific person, stolen to order. It's hard to say where they'll end up."

Across the country, art burglary has become more common in recent years as Canadians have gained confidence in the secure investment potential of artworks and cultural artifacts. Authorities have pointed to an increasing number of reports from border officials encountering art crime.

Most art thefts in the country have traditionally been probed simply as stolen property, with only a couple of investigators dedicated exclusively to stolen artworks.

The trio stolen from Gevik were some of the most valuable per square inch in Mr. Gauvreau's collection, Ms. Carreau said. It had been many years since Mr. Gauvreau displayed his work in Toronto, she added, and the pair had initially viewed the opportunity to present another show at the Hazelton site as "a good omen."

Mr. Gauvreau, who has been nicknamed "the born painter," has the craft "in his blood," Ms. Carreau said.

"Painting is very vital. He's a very great painter who has not received the attention, and now it's picking up. He's a great colourist," she said. "The way he renews himself from one painting to another is absolutely amazing."

Mr. Gauvreau has become quite well-known in the artistic community, Mr. Gevik said, calling the retrospective exhibition a "celebration" of his evolution over the past three decades.

"There aren't too many of his paintings out there," Mr. Gevik said. "That's why they're very important."

A note on the gallery's website describes Mr. Gauvreau's "subconscious" approach to painting: "The freshness, the immediacy and the freedom solidified his work as 'avant-garde.' "

One of the three stolen paintings was already on hold for a customer, after only one day of the three-week exhibition, Mr. Gevik said. All three were considered key showcase pieces, and though the exhibition will continue as scheduled until Oct. 16, it will not be the same, he said.

"Those are important paintings. He didn't want to sell them," Mr. Gevik said.

Mr. Gauvreau experienced a similar theft 10 years ago, when thieves broke into a Montreal gallery and stole five of his smaller paintings. The artworks were replaced and the show went on, but none of the stolen pieces were recovered until years later. Two are still missing.

Regardless, Ms. Carreau said, the paintings stolen in 1999 "were nothing compared to these.... These I can't replace. This is the problem."

Mr. Gauvreau's health has been declining in recent years since he suffered a stroke in the mid-1990s, Ms. Carreau said, which is why he could not make the trip to Toronto to attend his exhibition opening on Saturday.

"Although he can do lots of things, he has constant pain," she said. "He doesn't feel the pain when he paints."
Art Hostage Comments;
If there were to be a study of reported property theft worldwide, be it residential or commercial, and those involving art and antiques were to be separated from the rest, the true scale of the global pandemic in art related crime would become apparent.
However, if this were to happen Police might be forced to divert scarce resources towards combating art related crime.
The private sector can take up the slack but that is only in relation to post theft recovery and does nothing towards prevention.

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