Take That, Andy!

This happened about 1991. I was working for an art moving company out of New York City that was in town for the art show at Navy Pier. This employment was pretty informal: twenty dollars an hour, no S.S. number.

I was assigned to help a friendly woman pack up her gallery. She had nice old stuff; a Magritte with clouds of wood and a little blue and yellow Warhol self-portrait. Most of the paintings were down off the walls, leaning around here and there. I kicked the Warhol and it skidded a couple feet across the carpet. Oops! I looked up fast to see if she saw me do it. It was just as horrifying as the time I almost kicked a rock into the door of a Duesenburg at an autoshow. Or when I got semen on my uncles' pornography.

The first thing she had me pack was a beautiful little Calder Mobile; tape it carefully to a piece of corrugated cardboard, she told me. Okey-Dokey. I took it down from its nail, arranged it on the cardboard and looked at the price tag. $325,000. I thought: "She doesn't even know my last name".

Things were going pretty well until the early afternoon when she said that there should be a little Calder Stabile in the gallery and that she couldn't find it. I told her that I hadn't seen it and at the conclusion of an increasingly detailed search she decided to call the police. The Chicago Police.

In about an hour, two old-school detectives wander by. Big older white cops wearing blue and grey suits. They seemed to be enjoying themselves at the art fair, having a nice day out.

"This Calder; he's, ah, some sort of artist?"

"Oh yes, he's very famous and the sculpture that was stolen is very valuable".

So I'm packing and the gallery owner is showing the cops Calder books. They bent over the books, refraining from echoing my comments like "I could do stuff like that myself" and stuck to lines like: "Hmm", and "That's a nice one". Unfortunately there were no photos of the missing sculpture, but some were pretty close.

The owner had a theory: One of the young men who had worked for her the day before had taken the sculpture and that if the police would get a search warrant for his apartment they would probably find the Calder.

"Listen lady, I've been on the force for thirty-five years and in all that time I've only served two stolen property warrants. They don't just give them out like candy. You have to have a witness see the perpetrator carry the item into the premises or you need a witness that has been on the premises and has seen the item."

"Well, can you just pick him up and get him to confess?"

The cops looked at each other.

"We don't do stuff like that. Let's just fill out a report, get it on record , then later on we can call out the SWAT team."

They filled out the report and left. I kept packing and said something inane like: "Well, maybe it will turn up somewhere".

She said "Well, that's what insurance is for".

I worked until about two o'clock in the morning. The convention hall was deserted. The security guards had not been authorized for overtime, so there was nobody searching bags when I left. I could have stolen something really nice.


- Erik Newman