Sunday was not a good day for a San Francisco gallery. In just a matter of minutes, a man walked into Dennis Rae Fine Art and walked out with one of the galleries most-prized works: an etching by Salvador Dalí selling for $20,000.
The event, on the whole, had none of the usual markings of a Thomas Crown-worthy affair, instead, it was quick and unassuming, but effective nonetheless. ‘I was alone at the gallery and turned my back for a minute, and when I looked it was gone. I never saw the person’ Rasjad Hopkins, one of the gallery’s associate directors told The New York Times yesterday. ‘I can tell you this: I did not sleep that night,’ Hopkins continued. ‘I kept thinking, “What could I have done?”’
Titled La Girafe en Feu (The Giraffe on Fire), the etching was a 1960s limited edition work by Dalí. It is one of seven works in Dalí’s series that drew inspiration from Pablo Picasso’s Tauromachie Surréaliste (Surrealist Bullfighting. The work shares some similarities with Picasso’s work but, as expected, it reflects Dalí’s unique style. The stolen work is one of 100 in a series printed on a specific type of paper called japon and was obtained by Dennis Rae Fine Art from a French museum. The work was insured but according to Joan Kropf, chief curator of the St. Petersburg-based Dalí Museum, the work ‘could be quickly identified.’
Usually strapped to the easel it sat upon, on Sunday, La Girafe en Feu was not and at the moment when the theft happened, the gallery’s security cameras were not on. A man in a blue hat wearing a Nike shirt was caught on surveillance footage outside of the gallery though, alongside a second person with pink trousers. The man in the hat entered the gallery then promptly left carrying the etching in his right hand. The event happened on Sunday eventing between 4:40pm and 5:45pm according to San Francisco police. As of now, neither the work nor the man who stole it have been located, but police have asked that anyone with potential information come forward. ‘If we could get it back,’ Hopkins told NPR, ‘that would be a miracle.’
Although the gallery was offering the work for $20,000, Bruce Hochman, who publishes annual pricing guides for works by Dalí told the NYT that La Girafe en Feu could be worth as much as $27,500. However, if the work is recovered, it might go for even more as Hopkins stated the gallery has had an influx of calls from people interested in buying the work now. No one is particularly sure, though, what the thief intends for the work as galleries in the San Francisco area and elsewhere will be on lookout for the etching. Likewise, the thief’s lack of authentication for the work would most likely cause issue if taken to a pawn shop. Maybe, though, the thief might have ulterior wants and will just keep the work for himself. Then, what’s to say he and Thomas Crown don’t have more in common than originally thought?
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