Stolen Art

“Untitled,” by Henry Farny (1847-1916), oil on linen on board, 8 x 7.

Several pricey pieces of art have gone missing from local galleries, and the unknown suspect or suspects made off with more than $115,000 worth of art, police said.

On July 31, an employee at Trailside Galleries reported the theft of a $100,000 Henry Farny painting.

It’s believed someone stole the painting during business hours on July 29 or 30. No one at the gallery noticed the painting was missing until July 31 because the thief replaced the Farny painting with a different piece of the gallery’s art.

“There was a small Ansel Adams photo in its place, so there wasn’t a hole on the wall,” said Maryvonne Leshe, owner of Trailside Galleries. “It’s the first time we’ve had a theft in the gallery ever. We’ve been very lucky.”

The Farny painting, which was supposed to be auctioned this September during the Jackson Hole Art Auction, is just one of several recent thefts from art galleries.

Police wouldn’t release the name of the painting’s owner.

“He’s certainly saddened by this,” Leshe said. “These things happen. We just don’t want it to happen again.”

On July 31 a similar theft was reported at the Turpin Gallery after a sculpture valued at $6,500 and the gallery’s “open” sign worth $360 were discovered missing.

“The sculpture is of an eagle’s head mounted on a moose antler paddle,” Jackson Police Lt. Roger Schultz said.

But the sculpture was recovered and returned to Turpin Gallery on Monday, owner Ronnie Turpin told the Jackson Hole Daily.

“I am profoundly thankful,” Turpin said. “As the owner of a gallery I think you feel like you’ve been violated when a piece that’s not seen everywhere is taken from you.”

The piece was missing for two weeks.

“A homeowner said she found them in her basement after a house party,” Schultz said.

The bronze piece was returned undamaged Monday afternoon. But who stole it remains a mystery.

“She had the party on the 28th,” Schultz said. “She recalls one of her houseguests said they had found it outside Eddie Bauer. For whatever reason they left it in this person’s house.”

On Aug. 2 more artwork, this time a beaded mask, was reported stolen from Mountain Trails Gallery, police said.

“It’s a Native American-style Lakota horse mask made out of black and light-blue beads with features,” Schultz said.

The item was valued at $9,750, Schultz said.

It’s unknown if all three gallery thefts are connected, police said.

“It’s hard to make that connection without any evidence tying them all together,” Schultz said. “But any time you get multiple pieces of art being stolen right around the same time, I think you can make the assumption that they might be connected.”

And the obvious resale motive might not be the case.

“When you steal art like this it’s very difficult for someone to try to peddle it somewhere,” Leshe said. “The FBI has a stolen art list.”

Unfortunately, the case is lacking in evidence.

“We’re going to have cameras installed,” Leshe said. “We have to keep a close eye on our merchandise.”

Contact Emily Mieure at 732-7066, or @JHNGcourts.

Emily Mieure covers criminal justice and emergency news. She also leads the News&Guide’s investigative efforts. She has reported for WDRB TV in Louisville, Ky., WFIE TV in Evansville, Ind., and WEIU TV in Charleston, Ill.

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(2) comments

Pamela Flores

I find it unfathomable that galleries don't have camera systems; in these days, it'a an open invitation for theft.

James Sainty

I agree - bizarre! Commercial galleries tend to rely on people presence and fall victim to inertia, lack of education and the naive hope that 'my gallery won't be targeted'. I work in the art protection space and we see these thefts happen on almost a daily basis. There are a number of affordable wireless art-specific protection technologies in the market (including **queue shameless plug for my company's offering** ) that have the potential to stop art crime for good...

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