Sculpture stolen from show latest in string of art thefts

Sidney/North Saanich RCMP are searching for a unique sculpture stolen during an ongoing art event at the Mary Winspear Centre.

It is the latest in a string of art thefts on Vancouver Island dating back to June, although no connection among them has been established, said Sidney North/Saanich RCMP Cpl. Chris Manseau.

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The Sidney theft happened during the Sidney Sculpture by the Sea display, which features the work of more than 30 artists and runs through Sept. 4.

Manseau said the carving, created by Lyle Sopel, has a number of distinct features and also includes serial numbers.

“It’s two quartz crystal bears on a tiger eye tree with a jade base, and it’s got quartz fish,” he said.

“It’s valued somewhere between $20,000 and $40,000.

“Unfortunately we don’t have any video of it being stolen.”

The sculpture is about 35 centimetres tall and 20 centimetres wide, and weights about 11 kilograms. It went missing Aug. 3 between 11:30 a.m. and 1 p.m.

“It’s a pretty significant piece,” Manseau said. “You couldn’t just stuff it in a pocket.”

He said the investigation has included contacting people in the art community who might be familiar with the piece and contacting pawn shops. Investigators will also speak to police in other jurisdictions where art thefts have happened, Manseau said.

“There was a chainsaw carving taken in Chemainus, there was an aluminum dragon sculpture in Nanaimo that was taken —although that one was actually later recovered -- and a 300-pound Chinese terracotta sculpture that was taken from Lantzville.”

They were taken under a variety of circumstances.

The Nanaimo dragon sculpture was the first to go missing, on June 22. Valued at $12,000 to $15,000, it was taken from Maffeo Sutton Park and turned up on June 29.

The piece is one of 11 chosen this year to be placed in Nanaimo’s parks and public places as part of a temporary-art program.

The terracotta statue was taken from a yard and the chainsaw carving from a workshop.

Anybody with information on the Sidney incident is asked to call Sidney/North Saanich RCMP at 250-656-3931 or Crime Stoppers at 1-800-222-TIPS (8477).

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