Rant of the Week: Damien James at Newcity

June 17, 2009 · Print This Article

Dear Art Thief.

This is actually more of a stealth-rant, deploying reverse-psychology tactics and appeals to the culprit’s sense of fair play. Some creep stole an artwork by Chicago artist Damien James right off the walls of the Flatiron building, and what’s worse, the piece had already been sold.

“My initial reaction, not surprisingly, was anger. Intense, red piping-hot anger. “What the fuck!?” were my words, to be exact, extra emphasis on the “f.” Who steals art at a small neighborhood show? From an “emerging” artist? (”Emerging” = “starving”) Even more, who steals a piece of art that’s already been sold? Now I know it was small, and as you passed by, maybe you thought it would fit perfectly in your bag or pocket or whatever, but did you not see the sticker above the drawing that said “sold?” Could you not have chosen a piece that hadn’t already been paid for? Because you see, some artists who do shows in the Flat Iron, especially in the halls of the Flat Iron, are struggling; they’re artists who are desperately trying to carve out some tiny, peaceful existence. We’re trying to do something good, to make and share something outside the ever-present web of invasive consumerist insanity. I get (but don’t condone) stealing an iPhone, an X-Box, cash; but a drawing? Not only did you steal something I made, but you took money out of my pocket. So: what the fuck!?

Really, what were you thinking? Was it, “this’ll look awesome on my bathroom wall?” Was it the thrill of stealing something? Are you some kind of Vincenzo Peruggia? What’s next, a Steven Soderbergh art-heist caper?”

Hats off to James for channeling his justifiable rage into a piece that actually transcends the circumstances behind this unfortunate incident to say something larger about the need to show some basic human decency, even if you’re drunk off your ass, and even (especially) when it comes to small art shows at neighborhood galleries.

Damien James, from the 'small person' series

Damien James, from the 'small person' series