$12K painting stolen from Calgary art gallery

Calgary police are hoping surveillance camera images can help them catch an art thief who swiped a $12,000 painting from an art gallery in the Beltline.

The oil-on-panel by Canadian photorealist Mike Bayne was taken from TrépanierBaer Gallery at 10th Avenue and Eighth Street S.W. sometime between 11:30 a.m. and 1:15 p.m. on Wednesday, the gallery says.

“We’re all a bit in shock,” said gallery co-owner, Yves Trépanier.

He said on Wednesday a man walked through the gallery for a few minutes and proceeded to leave.

But, just moments later, Trépanier said his co-owner asked him where the painting was — as two hooks on the hallway wall were now empty.

“It was evident someone had taken it,” he said.

This Mike Bayne oil painting was taken from TrépanierBaer Gallery at Tenth Avenue and Eighth Street S.W. on Wednesday. (TrépanierBaer Gallery)

The 2016 work is titled TP, Headphones, Laptop, Brushes. A label next to the six-inch by four-inch artwork was also taken. 

“It was actually a painting of his painting table with his painting tools, his brushes, his computer, his headphones, a roll of toilet paper, his paints and the stuff he uses to make these paintings,” said Trépanier.

“A sort of artist’s self-portrait.”

Trépanier says they’re concerned someone might attempt to sell the painting, but doesn’t think they’d get very far.

“Selling a work of art, where do you do that, how do you do that?” he said.

“If you go into another gallery in Calgary, people know us, they know the work, they know what we’re showing because we’ve advertised the show. If you were to walk down the street [to another gallery] they would know immediately that something was up.”

Mike Bayne’s ‘TP, Headphones, Laptop, Brushes’ painting was hung by these, now empty, hooks. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

In his 30 years in the business, Trépanier said he’s never heard of a similar art theft in Calgary.

Elizabeth Edwards, executive director of The Art Dealers Association of Canada (ADAC) says they’ve alerted their membership and other people in the art community.

“So auction houses and fine art shippers as well,” she said.

Edwards said art theft in Canada is rare, but it does happen.

She said in Quebec there is a specific police unit that investigates art thefts, and ADAC gets between six to eight alerts about stolen art from them a year.

In this case, Edwards said from what she’s been told, it sounds like a crime of opportunity.

“They were in the gallery and they’re obviously not shy about stealing things,” she said. “It was an opportunity with a price tag like that, and it was easy to move out of the gallery.”

Edwards added that with their membership on the lookout, the thief will have a hard time unloading the piece.

“I don’t think that’s going to work out for him,” she said.

More paintings by Mike Bayne remain on display at TrepanierBaer Gallery in the Beltline. (Justin Pennell/CBC)

Trépanier said the best case scenario would be that the thief feels guilty about what they’ve done and returns the painting.

“I don’t think that will happen,” he said.

Trépanier said he’s informed Bayne of the theft, and although it wasn’t the news he was hoping to get from his dealer, he’s taking it in stride.

The gallery owner said they’ve taken all the steps they should when this sort of thing happens, including informing their insurer. 

Police say investigators are reviewing the gallery’s surveillance camera footage.