Catalan artist Oriol Vilanova's modern art exhibit "Picasso à l'image" consists of a blue jacket full of postcards of Picasso's work that hangs next to a black and white photo of Picasso in his workshop.
Imagine the artist's surprise when a patron at the Mussée Picaso in Paris pulled the jacket off its hook, put in her bag, and walked off with it.
The 72-year old art thief then returned to the same exhibit a few days later, while police were combing the crime scene for clues.
She was shocked when she was apprehended and accused of a major felony for taking the art. Like many of us, she had no idea that a jacket hanging on a hook was art, and according to Le Parisien, she thought she was guilty of a minor misdemeanor by taking a jacket that had been left behind.
Her story checked out, because she had not displayed the jacket on her wall like the amazing piece of art it is; instead, she had taken the coat to a tailor and had it altered so that it would fit her. She seemed intent on wearing it.
After a few hours of interrogation, the public prosecutor's office let the woman off with a warning and dropped the case. Letting the woman go plan her next heist, that is!
As for the jacket? Well, it is back in possession of the artist with somewhat shorter sleeves and missing all the postcards, which were apparently destroyed by the thief.
An outraged Vilanova told Artnet news,
When the museum told me the work had been stolen, I was surprised, but it was impossible to envisage the story that followed. I've always exhibited this artwork in the same way in other museums without any problem [as there were] security guards that guaranteed its safety. Other museums insured the artwork. If I had been aware of the risk of theft [at the Musée Picasso], I would never have exhibited it.
When asked to respond to Vilanova's accusations, the Musée Paris said,
We proposed to the artist to secure [the jacket] on a coat-hanging system which would have prevented it from being unhooked off the wall.
This option was not chosen by the artist because the public could not have manipulated the work easily. He wanted people to be able to handle not just the postcards, but the jacket too.
Due to the nature of Vilanova's piece, it was ‘not insurable for the risk of theft': a point stated in its loan agreement with the artist, the museum said. 'The artist was aware of the risk of the object being stolen.'
Personally, I'm highly amused that the sordid caper centers around Picasso, without whom a jacket hanging on a museum wall wouldn't have been called art in the first place.
Every time I hear of Picasso's artistic legacy, all I can think of is this old Saturday Night Live skit:
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