An art thief recently hit a community gallery space, making off with a painting by Whistler artist Theresa Mura.
The vibrant red sunflower painting created in the traditional Japanese Nihon-ga medium was part of Naturally, an exhibition the artist is currently staging with fellow Whistler artist Barbara Hirano in the upstairs foyer at Maurice Young Millennium Place.
The 28.5 by 20.25-inch piece, was mounted on matte board and was displayed on the wall to the right at the top of the stairs. Mura had priced the painting at $200.
Mura said she noticed the painting was missing while checking in with the exhibition between Nov. 16 and 17. When she inquired whether it had been moved she was informed by MY Place assistant general manager Lynn Mathews that it had been stolen. Mathews said she determined the piece was gone on Monday, Nov. 15, but couldn’t spare the time to notify Mura right away.
The theft was not reported to the police.
Relative newcomer Mura, an employee of Expressions Studio and Art Gallery as well as the Whistler Art Gallery in the Westin Resort, she moved to Whistler last June after spending 11 years in Japan. She said the experience has tarnished her view on the area.
"I desperately want to get rid of this bad taste it has left in my mouth and return to seeing the beauty in Whistler," she expressed. "I was welcomed into the artist community with open arms and had this great opportunity, and then this happens."
Mura’s co-exhibitor Barbara Hirano called the theft "a bit unnerving."
"I think it’s just sad people take things from artists who have enough trouble trying to make a go of it," Hirano said. "It’s disrespectful."
The walls in the upstairs foyer have been showcasing local (Squamish to D’Arcy) visual artists and photographers since the facility opened three and a half years ago. The Mura incident is the first theft.
Functioning as a cultural and spiritual hub for the community, MY Place is owned by the Whistler Skiers Chapel Society and is operated as a non-profit organization by the Maurice Young Millennium Place Society. The upstairs gallery is curated by a volunteer – Whistler artist Helga Ruiterman – and rotates exhibitions monthly (with the exception of Naturally, running through the end of December due to a cancellation).
MY Place takes a 30 per cent commission on all artworks sold. Theft insurance is in place but the $1,000 deductible is well above the $200 price on the painting, making it more feasible to compensate Mura’s loss as if it were a sale, Mathews said.
The non-profit organization can not afford to increase security in the space by hiring more staff, although new general manager Dennis Marriott said the organization is considering directing budget funds into more secure hanging devices. Marriott could not say when the new hanging system might be in place.
Mura says she harbours no resentment toward MY Place, and is hoping increased awareness of the incident might recover her work.