Portrait of a Failed Williamsburg Art Heist

03/04/2014 4:40 PM |


  • Images via Cotton Candy Machine/Facebook

It’s not a funny story, per se—two of the gallery’s paintings are still at large, which is terrible—but the details of this weekend’s bush-league heist at Williamsburg art gallery Cotton Candy Machine are pretty nuts, to say the least.


After Louise Lasalle and two accomplices allegedly made of with three paintings worth a total of $10,000—portraits of Jean-Michel Basquiat, Nelson Mandela, and Snoop Lion—during a party at the gallery Saturday night, Cotton Candy Machine’s owner Sean Leonard personally chased down Lasalle until the cops showed up, and actually managed to recover one of the paintings. From his post about this incident on Facebook:

This was after my long chase with Louis Lassalle, who is now under arrest and facing grand larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. I found him blocks away from #cottoncandymachine with this Basquiat portrait by Amar Stewart – Artist, stashed between a fence and a railing. I confronted him and dialed 911. He immediately started threatening me and telling me to leave. He called someone and told them I hand found him. He kept threatening me and trying to scare me off. It made me laugh even though this guy could have killed me. I just knew he couldn’t catch me and there was no way I was going to just leave. He tried to run and jumped in a cab, so I rushed to the passenger side door and opened it to yell at the driver. Telling him that I was on the phone with 911 and he couldn’t take this guy anywhere. Louis got out of the cab and came at me, threatened me again. This happened with cab after cab as I began chasing him and stopping cabs from taking him away. Doing all this while carrying a giant 5′ painting. a few times I’d just run in front of the taxi and start yelling until the cabby would roll down the window and hear me out. I had to keep updating the 911 operator as we ran through the neighborhood. I chased him almost to the subway at North 7th and Driggs Ave. Then when it got a little crowded, and I was making a lot of noise about the situation, he started chasing me back the same way we came. So I’m running with this painting working against me as a wind sail, trying to keep my distance. We got to North 4th and Driggs when I saw the police coming down the street. He tried to bolt one more time but he was fat and winded and didn’t make it far. The officers arrested him and took him away. They have been questioning him about the other suspects involved. The DA’s office has been a huge help today. Thank you friends, the news media, the art community and NYPD for continuing to help. We are still missing 2 paintings and we will find them. Thank you again for your support.

Most well-executed vigilante justice we’ve heard about in quite some time. There’s room for more, though; the gallery’s still trying to track down two of the stolen paintings, so y’know, if you see something, say something.

Follow Virginia K. Smith on Twitter @vksmith.