When one thinks of art heists, they think of the Gardner Museum, or palatial European galleries with centuries-old masterpieces.
They think of crafty burglars evading laser beam security systems and seasoned safecrackers breaking impossibly-encrypted access codes.
There wouldn’t be too many people who would admit connecting art heists to smash and grab jobs at Cary Square in Chelsea, but perhaps they should.
Chelsea City Cafe owner Josh Cook said he is as dumbfounded as he is angry about last Friday morning’s theft of four very large paintings that were hanging on the wall of his quaint coffee shop at the nexus of Washington and Cary Avenues.
“It’s just a really strange time to have an art heist in this area at this time,” said Cook. “It’s funny in a way, but it’s terrible for us. You tell someone that people stole four five-foot-tall paintings from a coffee shop in Chelsea and they look at you like you’re crazy. You have to really put some thought behind this to pull it off. It’s not like going by and seeing jewelry and just grabbing it. It’s not tragic, but it’s certainly a ‘wow’ type of thing and a bit unbelievable.”
The paintings had been hanging on the wall about eight weeks before they were stolen last Thursday night or Friday morning. They were about five feet tall and four feet wide and were by edgy, urban artist David Taylor – who goes by the name ‘DS7.’ Taylor does graffiti-style art in large scale paintings using aerosol paints and depicting urban themes or celebrities.
Some of the stolen paintings featured boxer Mike Tyson and singer Grace Jones.
The paintings are as remarkable and unique as they are large.
“There are so many questions I have,” said Cook. “Was this pre-meditated? Did someone actually case the place? Were they really going around outside and watching us? The ‘how’ and the ‘why’ are very perplexing with this. What in the world was the motive? I just wonder where they’re going to put these huge paintings and I wonder how they carried them out of here at night without somebody noticing. Do they think they’re going to just hang them up in their apartment?”
Those are questions that may never get answered.
Chelsea Police are looking into the matter, but are as befuddled by the robbery as Cook, and it might be a hard case to track down. First of all, putting a value on the paintings is tough to do. Cook said that Taylor values them at about $4,000, but there is a good chance they could be worth more given that Taylor has a well-known name with those in the urban, hip-hop art scene.
Cook said Taylor is very upset and disappointed, as he had put up some of his most treasured works and was trying to re-enter the art world after working for years in commercial nightclub design.
Cook said the thieves apparently smashed in his door to get in. Once inside, they didn’t go for any money. They didn’t take antiques, and they didn’t even trash the store.
They went straight for the paintings, clipped them off the wall and left with them.
“We realized right off that we had been broken into due to the smashed door,” said Cook. “I walked in and everything seemed to be untouched. I began looking around and soon noticed the walls were empty. I looked around and thought ‘They took the paintings?'”
Indeed they did.
Cook said he is frustrated too, because he was trying to change things up and appeal to a larger crowd. Rather than a more traditional art show, he had put up something edgy with urban appeal, thinking he might draw interest from the numerous young people in the area.
“I wanted to put up something edgier than normal to relate to the surroundings here in Chelsea and appeal to an urban audience,” he said. “Now, I’m feeling that maybe I just shouldn’t have done that. If people are just going to steal it, then we’ll just put up more old lady landscapes and nobody will look at the pictures again. I didn’t bring buyers to this artist, I brought thieves. It’s terrible.”