Glass Sculpture Stolen From $6 Million Dale Chihuly Collection Recovered

It was found in a box outside the museum.

Dale Chihuly, Mille Fiori (2010), at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center. Photo: Terry Rishel, courtesy the Morean Arts Center.
Dale Chihuly, Mille Fiori (2010), at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center. Photo: Terry Rishel, courtesy the Morean Arts Center.

A $20,000 Dale Chihuly sculpture that was stolen some time between the afternoon of February 7 and the following morning has been safely recovered. The glass artwork, titled Colbalt and Lavender Piccolo Venetian with Gilded Handles, is part of a $6 million Chihuly Collection at the Morean Arts Center in St. Petersburg, Florida.

Video surveillance from 1:00 a.m. on February 10 reveals an unidentified person leaving a box outside the Morean’s main facility, about seven blocks from the Chihuly Collection. It was discovered by employees in the morning, who opened it to see the missing artwork.

“So, the person who stole it, returned it,” St. Petersburg police spokesperson Yolanda Fernandez told artnet News in a phone call. “It was in bubble wrap and it was not damaged.”

Dale Chihuly, <em>Cobalt and Lavender Piccolo Venetian with Gilded Handles</em> (right), at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center. Photo: courtesy Dale Chihuly.

Dale Chihuly, Cobalt and Lavender Piccolo Venetian with Gilded Handles (right), at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center.
Photo: courtesy Dale Chihuly.

The police are continuing to investigate the theft, and are reviewing museum security footage.

“How could someone possibly walk out with such a valuable piece of artwork from Chihuly?” Fernandez had asked local station 10News WTSP in disbelief before the piece’s recovery.

Unfortunately, it happens more often than you might think. This past March, a woman buying dog licenses from an upstate New York government building brazenly stole an oil painting, only to be quickly identified thanks to video surveillance footage. In July, a gallery-goer nonchalantly slipped a Elisabeth Frink statue worth $63,000 inside a rolled up newspaper. A similarly bold theft, in which a man attempted to leave a gallery with a painting under his arm, was foiled in September 2014.

Dale Chihuly glass sculptures at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center. Photo: courtesy the Morean Arts Center.

Dale Chihuly glass sculptures at the Chihuly Collection, Morean Arts Center.
Photo: courtesy the Morean Arts Center.

Chihuly’s work has been the target of a number of thefts, including a long-running scam in which a drug-addicted employee of the artist’s studio stole 90 glass sculptures in order to pay for his drug habit. In a less premeditated incident, four friends on a drunken bender broke into the Denver Botanic Gardens and made off with four pieces, three of which were later destroyed by farm machinery.

Most recently, a $120,000 Chihuly sculpture on view at the artist’s retrospective at the Tacoma Museum of Art was smashed to pieces by a mentally disturbed man. Fortunately, the St. Petersburg incident has had a happier ending.

“The Chihuly Collection is really a treasured exhibit here in St. Petersburg,” added Fernandez. “It was a tremendous loss to have even one small piece missing from that collection. It means a lot to our community to be able to have it back in one piece in its rightful place.”


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