Huffpost Arts

Stolen Dali Painting Mailed Back To Gallery Unharmed

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Salvador Dali was an eccentric fellow to say the least, so it is no surprise that a Dali theft (and return) would be a surreal ordeal.

First a Dali painting was stolen from Venus Over Manhattan gallery last Tuesday, when a man in a polka-dotted shirt approached a guard and asked to take a picture of a work. The work was Dali's "Cartel des Don Juan Tenorio," a 1949 painting worth $150,000. The thief reportedly approached the work and, instead of photographing it, put it in his shopping bag and strolled out.

Later the surveillance tape of the bold caper was released only to reveal the thief was wearing, not polka dots, but checkers.


Barely a week after the work was stolen, the thief got cold feet. The piece was returned in exquisite shape on Friday to Kennedy International Airport, where it had been shipped from Europe by Express Mail. The New York Post reported the uncanny exchange, in which the thief emailed the gallery with a tracking number ahead of time and assured them "Cartel on its way back to you already."

While many find the whole affair puzzling, gallery owner Adam Lindemann seemed to think returning the stolen good was the obvious choice. "What do you do with a stolen drawing by Dali?" he asked the New York Times.

This theft has played a key role in a peculiar flurry of art crime. Also last week, a self-described "up-and-coming Mexican American artist" vandalized a Picasso painting in Houston, capturing the whole thing on video. He then uploaded the video to YouTube and liked it on Facebook.

We are happy to hear Dali is home and safe and wonder if this will be the last we hear of the mysterious polka-dotted/checkered shirt bandit. We are sorry to report he did not make the following list of the top 10 best art heists of all time.

Greatest Art Thefts
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