Stolen Jean-Paul Riopelle Sculptures Recovered

The worrying trend of Thieves who steal masterpieces to melt down for scrap

Two large scaled  bronze statues sculpted by the internationally renowned Quebec artist Jean-Paul Riopelle valued at over $1 million, were recovered in woodlands near Montreal on Tuesday after they were reported missing a day earlier.The thefts were noticed by a security guard  on Monday, after workers noticed that the sculptures had been removed from their plinths.The  police were informed but by the time officers reached the scene, the sculptures had been removed.

The works titled, “La Dafaite” or the English translation “The Defeat,” were stolen by thieves who were attempting to break them up to sell for scrap metal. The five-foot, 300-kilogram figures were situated outside of Riopelle’s former studio in the Laurentian town of Esterel Que,100 kilometres northeast of Montreal.

Sgt. Eloise Cossette in charge of the investigation said the works had been damaged by being pulled from their plinth and dragged on the pavement before being cut into several smaller pieces. Consevationists however are confidant that the statues can be restored to their original state at a cost of cost tens of thousands of dollars. A tip off led police to uncovered the remains of the sculptures.

Huguette Vachon the artists widow said “t’s a shame that thieves would attempt to destroy such celebrated works of art”, she added that doing so is tantamount is destroying a piece of Quebec’s cultural history.

The sculptures were on permanent display and accessible to the public. Unfortunately this will now have to change and the work will most likely be loaned to a museum or inside a large public space for its own safety.Vachon stated that; “The works will no longer be kept outside”.

This disturbing trend of thefts of public sculpture has been a bi-product of the rising costs of metals. It is thought that the trade in bronze scrap is being fuelled by the electronics industry in China.One of the most outrageous British art thefts,concerns the theft of a two-tonne Henry Moore sculpture worth over $6m. The police believe that the iconic statue of a Reclining Figure was melted down and sold for a piddley £1,500 scrap price.The bronze sculpture was stolen from the 72-acre estate of the Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham, Hertfordshire, in December 2005.

Jean-Paul Riopelle was born in Montreal, he studied under Paul-Émile Borduas in the 1940s and was a member of Les Automatistes movement. He was one of the signers of the Refus global manifesto. In 1949 he moved to Paris and continued his career as an artist, where he commercialised on his image as a “wild Canadian”. In 1959 he began a relationship with the second generation abstract expressionist, Joan Mitchell.The American painter was the former wife of economist, Alan Greenspan and an original follower if Ayn Rand. Living together throughout the 1960s, Riopelle and Mitchell kept separate homes and studios near Giverny, where Monet had lived. They influenced one another greatly, as much intellectually as artistically, but their relationship was a stormy one, fueled by alcohol. The relationship ended in 1979.

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