Thieves remain at large after attempting to steal a Basquiat

A male and female duo managed to remove a Basquiat worth $45,000 from the wall of a Manhattan gallery before fleeing on foot.

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Earlier this month, a man and woman reportedly almost walked away with a Basquiat for a steal—literally. NBC News reports New York City police are still in search of the duo who attempted to abscond with a screenprint estimated to be worth $45,000 from Manhattan’s Taglialatella Gallery on May 14.

Visitors stand among paintings by artist Jean-Michel Basquiat at Musee d’Art Moderne on October 15, 2010 in Paris, France.
Photo: Pascal Le Segretain/Getty Images

The attempted heist occurred at approximately 5:30 p.m. that Saturday, when the man and woman removed the screenprint, identified by ArtNet as Basquiat’s “Dog Leg Study,” from the wall of the gallery. Taglialatella, a Toronto-based art dealer which also has outposts in Palm Beach, Fla., and Paris, is in possession of several of the artist’s drawings and prints, as mentioned in a May 12 Instagram post featuring another of the artist’s works and touting the gallery’s proximity to the acclaimed Basquiat family-curated retrospective “King Pleasure.”

Whether or not the post piqued the interests of the would-be art thieves remains unknown, but as ArtNet reports:

The couple (one male, one female) casually walked into Taglialatella Galleries on May 14, in Manhattan’s Chelsea neighborhood. They spoke to the attendant with what investigators called an “unknown European accent,” and then perused the gallery’s public area.

Then the couple made their way to a back office of the gallery that also doubles as a private viewing room. Video footage of the event shows the couple assessing the framed print, titled Dog Leg Study (1982/2019), looking up details of its value on their phone. 

Seconds later, they casually removed the artwork from the wall, distracted only by a nearby bottle of whiskey in the office, which they also took. 

Source: ArtNet

Thankfully, the three-and-a-half foot artwork didn’t go unnoticed by gallery staff.

“It was pretty brazen. We’ve had stuff stolen from the gallery before but nothing quite this obvious,” said gallery owner Brian Swarts in an interview with 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.”

The artwork may have been recovered, but the art thieves were still able to escape, fleeing the scene on foot.

“[P]olice are looking for a woman in her 20s or 30s with blond hair. They said she was wearing a navy coat and a brown backpack,” reports NBC News, citing a police spokesperson. “The man was described as being in his 20s to his 30s. He was wearing a maroon and gray sweatshirt with black pants and red sneakers.” The duo was last seen walking north on nearby 10th Avenue in Manhattan.

Maiysha Kai is Lifestyle Editor of theGrio, covering all things Black and beautiful. Her work is informed by two decades’ experience in fashion and entertainment, great books and aesthetics, and the brilliance of Black culture. She is also the editor-author of Body (Words of Change series).

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