Art heist makes an impression

Joel StoningtonAspen, CO Colorado

ASPEN Aspen’s laid-back gallery scene got a jolt this week when a small Pierre-Auguste Renoir statue valued at $31,000 disappeared from a downtown art dealer.The 9-inch bust, “La Petit Venus,” is one of eight casts of an original Renoir and was on display at Stanfield Fine Arts on Durant Avenue. Renoir’s assistant, Richard Guino, made the casts in 1982 under provision of the French government. Gallery owner DeVon Stanfield said it was unclear when the statue was actually taken, but his staff noticed it was gone Sunday.”It was stolen, we think, around the 22nd or 23rd of March,” Stanfield said. “We didn’t notice it was missing until Sunday.”The statue was reported stolen on Monday but Aspen police could not comment because the investigation is ongoing. The gallery has been open for only 15 months, though Stanfield has had a gallery in Park City, Utah, for a decade. He said he has never had anything stolen from either gallery. Even so, all the art in both galleries is insured. He said the bust was probably taken during store hours because there is an alarm system and he had not seen any signs of forced entry. There are no video cameras in the store, though there is a one near the back entryway. “[Video cameras] are a detail we neglected in rushing to open,” Stanfield said. “I felt it was a safe risk considering the crime rate in Aspen, but that’s no excuse.”He said that the statue is a high-value item for the store, where the average price of a work of art is roughly $7,500. During the holiday season, however, the staff had a master’s exhibition with many higher-ticket works of art. Stanfield said he wanted to get the word out on the theft just in case someone is trying to sell it or it has already sold. “It’s a museum-quality work of art,” Stanfield said. “The community needs to know when something like that happens. We’re really shocked.”Other gallery owners in Aspen were shocked as well. Laurent Kosinski, director of Aspen Fine Art Gallery, said his store hasn’t had anything stolen beyond a few bottles of wine during Food & Wine one year.”I’m glad they didn’t take anything valuable,” he said. “I’ve been in the business for nine years now, and I don’t even think about it.”Because Aspen Fine Art Gallery is a split-level, it does have security cameras, but many Aspen galleries do not. For the most part, gallery owners said theft just is not an issue worth worrying about. “I’m going to have to put things like that in cases now,” Stanfield said.Renoir, born in 1841, was a French artist and a leader in the development of the Impressionist style. His paintings are notable for their vibrant light and saturated color, most often focusing on people in intimate and candid compositions. The female nude was one of his primary subjects. Renoir died in 1919.Joel Stonington’s e-mail address is