New York City Police Are on the Hunt for a Couple Who Tried to Make Off With a $45,000 Basquiat From a Chelsea Gallery

Taglialatella Galleries staff thwarted the would-be thieves.

The couple, courtesy NYPD

New York City police are on the lookout for a couple that brazenly attempted to steal a Jean-Michel Basquiat screenprint worth $45,000 off the wall of a Manhattan gallery. 

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. 

As they attempted to leave, a gallery staffer stopped the couple at the exit, noticing they had in their possession the three-and-a-half-foot framed print. 

“It was pretty brazen. We’ve had stuff stolen from the gallery before but nothing quite this obvious,” gallery owner Brian Swarts told 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 shameless attempted robbery of the Basquiat is not the first time the gallery has been targeted. Last year, thieves attempted to lift a Kaws figurine, which was much smaller in size. “That’s typically what people try to steal,” Swarts told Hyperallergic, “small sculptures or pieces they can put in a hoodie or a backpack. But never a work that was framed like that.”

The couple did end up making off with about a one-third-full bottle of Maker’s Mark.

With NYPD still searching for the aspiring Thomas Crown Affair couple, and no word on whether any of the whiskey is left, police are asking that anyone who may recognize the couple get in touch with them immediately. 

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