'The world's most hopeless art heist': Sydney artist's bushfire relief painting stolen
Sydney Morning Herald 14/02/2020
Sally Rawsthorne_view full article online
Artist Laura Jones, who has been a finalist in the Archibald Prize, had created the 81 x 61-centimetre oil work to auction at the National Art School's Home: Bushfire Relief Art Auction Fundraiser and had taken it to Mascot's High Res Digital to be photographed for the auction last week.
John Hayes, 24, came into the business last Friday to enquire about purchasing a print for his home, then stole the artwork, which had been valued between $10,000 and $12,000.
"It’s a saturated red painting, he’s going to have red paint all over his hands," Ms Jones told the Herald at the time. "It’s probably the most hopeless art heist in history."
High Res Digital owner Warren Macris said the theft from the business was bizarre.
"It was rather bewildering and quite sad. We've got cameras everywhere and we've got signs saying we've got cameras everywhere, and this man was just acting as if the cameras weren't there [in the footage]," he said.
"He went to leave, opened the door then closed it again and snuck back in, while three cameras were recording him.
"He was astonishing to watch, someone creeping around with three cameras within a couple of metres. There are times where he basically stares at the camera."
On Thursday, detectives from South Sydney recovered the artwork and charged Hayes over the theft.
Hayes was arrested at a Marrickville home and the painting was recovered, police said in a statement.
He was charged with larceny worth more than $5000 and was refused bail to appear at Newtown Local Court on Friday where he pleaded guilty and was given a 12-month sentence for the larceny offence and two shoplifting charges with a non-parole period of six months.
Ms Jones said on Friday she was thrilled to have it back. "I can't believe it. It's a little bit damaged but not too bad," she said.
Following the loss of the original work, Ms Jones submitted another smaller painting to the auction which raised $4000 for bushfire relief.
Ms Jones, whose work has been recognised in the Archibald, the Portia Geach Memorial Award and the Doug Moran Portrait Prize, said that she was keen to contribute to the bushfire relief fundraiser because her family and friends had been affected by the crisis over the summer.
"I grew up in the Blue Mountains so it’s really been in my community and family. I really wanted to make something special, so I put some banksias in from my uncle's property, which was burnt quite badly," she said.