Man Slashes $3 Million Painting In Aspen Gallery
May 9, 2017
One of two cuts made in the "Untitled 2004" painting by Christopher Wool.
The quiet of Aspen's offseason was punctured this week by a $3 million crime as unusual as it was bizarre.
An unknown man wearing sunglasses, a hat and a full beard on Tuesday afternoon entered a high-end art gallery near the base of Aspen Mountain, made a beeline for a wall-sized painting by artist Christopher Wool and slashed the canvas twice with a knife or razor blade before running out.
"It's crazy," Gregory Lahmi, owner of the Opera Gallery on Dean Street, said Wednesday. "First of all, I'm shocked for the work of the artist. It's ugly to do that to (the painting)."
“On it’s face, it’s extremely suspicious. There has to be a reason someone would want to destroy this painting.”
Priced at $2.95 million and titled "Untitled 2004," the painting was destroyed, Lahmi said, though it was still hanging in the gallery Wednesday. It was being sold on consignment, he said.
Lahmi's assistant, who was alone in the gallery, said the man paid no attention to any other paintings — which include works by Pablo Picasso and Marc Chagall — and was only inside for about 15 seconds.
Lahmi said he has no idea what prompted the vandalism but in recent weeks has received three suspicious calls from a man using a blocked phone number asking if Lahmi had a Wool painting.
Aspen police also are unsure of a motive, but believe the crime was planned.
"On it's face, it's extremely suspicious," Aspen Police Detective Jeff Fain said. "There has to be a reason someone would want to destroy this painting."
Wool is not a controversial artist and is known as a "contemporary abstract master" who is part of the "new expressionist" movement, Lahmi said.
"He's collected by the most important collectors in the world," he said. "Wool is an artist I respect the most."