Stolen $1.5M statue from Calif. art gallery located by LAPD

The Barakat Gallery on the 900 block of North La Cienega Boulevard in Los Angeles, between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard. 

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Los Angeles police found a $1.5 million statue over the weekend that was stolen from a California art gallery, authorities said. 

The 250-pound bronze Buddha statue was stolen from the Barakat Gallery near West Hollywood around 3 a.m. on Sept. 18, Drake Madison, a spokesman for the Los Angeles Police Department, told SFGATE.

A man forced his way through the driveway gate of the gallery and entered the space through the backyard, Madison said. He then used a dolly to wheel the statue out of the outdoor gallery and out to a moving truck. 


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Paul Henderson, the gallery director, told SFGATE that after viewing the security footage, he believes it took the person about 20 minutes to steal the statue. The Buddha is a rare, 17th-century antique from the Japanese Edo period, he said, making it extremely valuable.

He said gallery staff reported the incident to law enforcement after noticing the statue was missing later that morning. 

Madison said a few days after the statue was stolen, detectives followed up on a tip that the statue was being sold online. That tip led them to the back of a pickup truck on the 4300 block of Palmero Boulevard in Los Angeles, where they located the statue Saturday.

After locating the Buddha statue, law enforcement arrested the person in possession of it on suspicion of receiving stolen property, Madison said.


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It’s not clear if a suspect was arrested on suspicion of stealing the statue specifically, or whether the Buddha was returned to the art gallery. It’s also not clear where the statue may have been between leaving the gallery in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 and its eventual discovery on Sept. 23.

Henderson said in his 12 years as the gallery’s director, this is the first time an item has been stolen. 

“The overall nature of the situation, with it being a single person and the way that he managed to get in, and the item that he took, I mean, it was all pretty perplexing for us,” he told SFGATE.

At first, Henderson told SFGATE, gallery staff thought they might be dealing with an experienced art thief. The statue was located in an area of the gallery with almost 200 other objects, so that the fact that it was singled out among many other pieces suggested that whoever took it may have known its value, he said.


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“It would take somebody who’s really really versed in art, specific segments of the business antiquities in particular, to understand what they were looking at versus the other items,” he said. “It was a little startling.”

Another reason for a knowledgeable thief to target the Buddha could be its “metal value,” Henderson said; the bronze statue also incorporates marble stone, basalt and other minerals.

In the end though, Henderson concluded that the person who took the statue didn’t really know the prize they had. That’s because the online listing was offering the statue for quite a low price.

“He was totally clueless as to what he was dealing with,” Henderson said. “He didn’t have it ID’d, and he [was asking for] an incredibly nominal amount of money for it and obviously did not know anything about the amount of attention that it garnered.”


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The art gallery has about 16 cameras, sensors, alarms and locks as security measures, Henderson said, though the backyard, where the thief gained entry, is less secure. He said he’s considering adding more sensors on the backyard gate in the future.

LAPD said the theft is still an ongoing investigation.

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Written by Sharecaster

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