Expensive Russian painting disappears from Main Street gallery | ParkRecord.com

Expensive Russian painting disappears from Main Street gallery

by Jay Hamburger OF THE RECORD STAFF

The Park City Police Department is investigating the disappearance of an expensive painting owned by a Main Street gallery, but it was not clear at the beginning of the week whether the piece was stolen or somehow misplaced.

The Police Department received a report in the middle of the afternoon on April 12 from the Thomas Kearns McCarthey Gallery about the missing painting, made by a late Russian impressionist painter named Grigoriy Leontievich Chainikov. The piece dates to 2000, eight years before the artist’s death at age 47.

Rick Ryan, a police captain, said the gallery values the piece at $42,000, with the $3,000 frame it was in also missing. The $45,000 value makes the piece one of the most valuable items ever reported missing in Park City, outpacing other artwork that has been stolen and high-end watches that have been swiped.

Kai Bolger, the director of the gallery, said she conducted an inventory of the artwork and discovered the Chainikov piece was not accounted for. The painting measures 46 inches by 51 inches. It is an oil painting on canvas entitled "Old Wheels." The muted-colored canvas focuses on man appearing to be in a barn rolling out what looks to be a wagon wheel.

Chainikov is the top-selling artist at the gallery, Bolger said.

Bolger, the director since 2009, said she is not yet sure whether the painting was stolen or sent somewhere and then forgotten. She said it is possible that the piece was traded, lent or donated to an art institution. Bolger said the "least likely scenario" is someone stealing the painting from the gallery.

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"It’s not a painting somebody can walk out the door with," Bolger said, adding that it would have been "virtually impossible" for someone to have stolen it from the gallery floor given its size and the location where it had been hanging.

The Police Department said the gallery told investigators the piece might have disappeared as early as late 2005. Ryan said the police want to learn who the last people to see or handle the piece were. He said the FBI might be involved in the probe as well.

Ryan agrees with the gallery director that there are several scenarios that could explain the disappearance that do not involve criminal activity. He said the gallery regularly rotates the paintings between the Main Street location and a warehouse in the Salt Lake Valley. He said it was not known whether it disappeared from the gallery or the warehouse.

Anybody with information about the missing painting may contact the Police Department at 615-5500. The department’s anonymous-tip line is 615-5847. People may contact the gallery as well. The number is 658-1691.

Art thefts are occasionally reported on Main Street, seen as the most upscale art market in the state. Some cases reported in the last year or so on the street include a $15,000 sculpture of a frog, which was later returned, and a hand-blown glass sculpture valued at approximately $3,500.