An Artist Lost Hundreds of Digital Artworks When His Laptop Was Stolen. He’s Now Offering a Reward of $1.2 Million for Its Safe Return

It's a cruel irony for an artist whose work frequently focuses on money and theft.

Portrait of the artist Penny (2023) by Michael Lebor.

James Penfold, a British stencil artist who works under the name Penny, is offering a reward of £1 million ($1.2 million) for information that leads to the recovery of his laptop and hard drive containing hundreds of works of art which were stolen from his East London home on March 17.

Penfold returned from a day trip with his family to find his MacBook Pro, Samsung external hard drive, cash, jewelry, and various other valuables missing. As Penfold informed his followers on Instagram: “My work wasn’t properly backed up to the cloud and I have lost so much work I can barely dare to imagine.”

Among the many works Penfold has lost is Batman, an unfinished composite portrait of the D.C. Comics hero created out of hundreds of bat images that he planned to hand-cut into stencils and layer onto an uncut sheet of U.S. dollar bills. It was a private commission and will need to be completely remade. Also missing are a pair of generative NFT projects and files related to a Web3 project.

In addition to a financial reward, Penny is offering You Look Like a Million Pounds, a 2023 infinity mirror installation with banknotes as its subject.

Penny, Power Grab (2022)

The theft is a cruel irony for Penfold, who gave up a career as a neurosurgeon to become an artist, given his work frequently plays with and subverts the themes of theft and the nature of money. Using his hands and a scalpel, Penny has specialized in creating provocative, highly-detailed pieces that frequently take the banknote as a canvas.

In 2014’s Heist, for example, a balaclava-wearing thief escapes from a £10 note having stolen the portrait of the Queen and in 2013’s Money to Burn, Lady Liberty sets fire to a one dollar bill. In his more recent “Inflation” series, Penny cuts banknotes into thousands of squares and then reforms the image to distorting effect.

“I’d be willing to offer a million Pounds for the safe return of my files and laptop,” Penfold said in a statement. “The hard drive is probably in a bin or pawn shop somewhere, as it isn’t really worth anything to anyone else, but it’s priceless to myself and my family. It’s literally like they’ve stolen a part of me.”

Penfold is currently involved in a solo show at New York’s Krause Gallery and several self-funded London pop-up shows, though much of the artwork and plans for these were on the missing hard drive.

Penny, Cuts, (2015).

At the time of writing, no progress had been made in recovering the stolen items. Anyone with information related to the case should report it to the U.K. police, quoting the CAD number 1397/17MAR23.

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