Aspen police are looking for a man who walked into a high-end art gallery with a knife and slashed a $2.95 million painting Tuesday.
The whole incident at Opera Gallery lasted less than 20 seconds. Security footage shows a man with sunglasses, a hat and a beard hover outside the gallery. He then enters, uses a piece of wood to keep the door open, draws his blade, and finally cuts the canvas twice. He runs away as a gallery assistant approaches, a second video shows:
“Unfortunately to me, it has a considerable decrease in value because of the condition. And I don’t even know if it’s restorable,” said gallery director Gregory Lahmi.
The vandalized work is by Christopher Wool, a well-known contemporary painter from New York City.
Lahmi is now suspicious of an individual who called the gallery three times in recent weeks to ask about the painting. The unidentified caller blocked his number and said he would visit the gallery this week. It’s the off-season in Aspen, so Lahmi said he spent the afternoon with his family and told the gallery assistant to call him if the man showed up.
“She told me something terrible happened, and I did the correlation almost at the second with the real strange calls I had,” Lahmi said.
The Aspen Police Department has no suspects or motive, spokesman Bill Linn said.
“It’s pretty hard to put your finger on in it because there are so many question marks,” he said. “From a personal perspective, I look at this and go, ‘Wow, this is really unexpected and I don’t quite know what to think about it.’ ”
Investigators have gone door-to-door to talk to neighbors and also gathered video footage from nearby businesses. Linn said they’ve pieced together the man’s foot travels after leaving the gallery, but that trails off once he enters a residential area. Given the value of the painting, Linn said this would be a felony-level charge.
“Of course we’re taking into account the possibility that there’s some level of financial motivation on the part of somebody involved,” Linn said. “Literally nothing is off the table at this point.”
Lahmi, the gallery director, said that Wool’s work doesn’t explore any controversial issues, like religion or race. He said the painting -- being sold on consignment -- was insured, but he couldn’t speak to any of those details.
“I am outraged. You don’t do that to a piece of art, you don’t do that to an artist,” he said. “Whatever you like, you don’t like, I mean that’s it. I don’t see the point to do it.”
Lahmi said Wool’s studio knows about the crime, but as of Thursday he had not spoken to the artist.
“I’ll speak to Christopher any day he wants, to say, ‘I’m sorry,’” the director said. “That’s the only thing I can say.”