Vance Theoret was paid a “backhanded compliment” last week when two of his sculptures were stolen from a Kelowna art gallery.
Theoret, 100 Mile House’s resident soapstone carver, said the theft occurred around 2 a.m. Saturday morning at Gallery 421. When he called the gallery that weekend, co-owner Ken Moen jokingly told him “I sold a couple of your sculptures” before explaining what had happened.
“I said to him ‘That’s not the way I like to sell my work,’” Theoret said. “It’s always a backhanded compliment when someone is willing to take the chance of getting caught to steal your work.”
While he’s upset by the theft, Theoret said his loss is small compared with the artwork stolen from other artists. All told the thieves made off with about $70,000 worth of art, mostly bronze sculptures by his friend Vilem Zach from Calgary. The thieves busted into the gallery, located at 560 Raymer Avenue, using a yellow crowbar before escaping with 11 pieces of fine art.
Moen, who’s owned Gallery 421 for three years, said the thieves pried the front door open with a crowbar and spent less than four minutes in the store. They took seven works belonging to Zach and fellow bronze sculptor Michael Hermesh, two of Theoret’s soapstone carvings and some blown glass pieces by Jeff Holmwood.
“It was very targeted. On their first trip into the gallery they got the pieces they were targeting at the back of the gallery. The second time in they went to the middle of the gallery and the third time in they grabbed pieces right by the front door,” Moen said. “That alarm didn’t phase them at all, they knew how quickly they were going to be in and out.”
Theoret said his two pieces are worth $700 and $400 respectively.
This isn’t the first time Theoret’s work has been stolen but he said it’s still upsetting, especially in a town like Kelowna. Moen told him he’s in the process of alerting all the secondary markets in Western Canada where the art could be resold.
“For me, it’s not traumatic as it would be for Ken and Kelly, the gallery owners, and for my friend Vilem, but sometimes this happens,” Theoret said.
Despite the theft, Moen said they feel lucky there was no vandalism in addition to the theft. No paintings were slashed with knives and no windows had to be replaced. He said they’ll add some more security cameras outside the store and reinforce the door to prevent further theft.
“We wish Vance the best. It’s unfortunate some of his pieces were stolen but we know he’ll be able to carve us some more,” Moen said.
Gallery owner Kelly Hanna told Black Press that Kelowna RCMP is currently looking for the two individuals. The first man is identified as a 5’10”, medium-build individual, who was wearing a grey hoodie, blue pants and white shoes. The other thief is being labeled as a 5’6” male, who was seen wearing a dark hoodie and black Adidas shoes.
Hanna says that the stolen art weighs a total of 315 pounds. Saturday’s heist marks the second time in as many years that Gallery 421 has been the subject of such an incident.