Aspen painting slasher remains elusive, police continue to gather video
Police said Thursday the man who entered an Aspen art gallery earlier this week and slashed a $3 million painting with a knife-like object is proving an elusive target.
“We’re still not sure what this is about,” said Aspen Assistant Police Chief Bill Linn. “With some cases, it’s easy to infer a motive. This is a head-scratcher.”
The suspect went into Opera Gallery on Dean Street at about 4 p.m. Tuesday and used a blade of some kind to make two cuts in the painting before running out the door.
Police have been able to track down video from downtown businesses in the area. Those videos show the man running past a clothing store at the corner of Hunter Street and Cooper Avenue, then heading east on Cooper, Linn said. Video from a business on the next block shows him running past the Aspen Square Condominium building.
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Finally, cameras at City Market show the man running by the grocery store, crossing Original Street and disappearing into the residential neighborhood on Aspen’s east end, Linn said.
Officers went door-to-door Thursday in that area in an effort to determine if residents might have seen the man or a car he might have gotten into, Linn said, but no leads have yet come out of that effort.
The department also has received calls from people saying photos of the man released Thursday by police “looks like so-and-so,” though nothing had panned out as of Thursday afternoon, he said.
The youngish-looking man entered the Opera Gallery, placed a block of wood in the door jamb so the door couldn’t close all the way, then headed straight for an approximately 81/2 -foot by 61/2-foot painting by artist Christopher Wool. The man slashed it twice and ran out, grabbing the block of wood on his way out. The man wore a glove only on his left hand and appeared to be careful not to touch anything with his bare right hand.
The man, who was inside for only about 15 seconds, was dressed in dark clothing and wore a dark cap, sunglasses and had a full beard.
“On it’s face, it’s extremely suspicious,” Aspen police Detective Jeff Fain said Wednesday. “There has to be a reason someone would want to destroy this painting.”
Wool’s works are world-famous, hanging in major museums, and one of his pieces sold for $26.4 million at a 2013 auction.
The painting that was defaced in Aspen, titled “Untitled 2004” and priced at $2.95 million, was for sale on consignment. The gallery’s owner, Gregory Lahmi, said Wednesday the painting was destroyed. He said in the weeks leading up to the incident he received three phone calls from a blocked number, and the person was asking specific questions about the gallery having a Wool work.
Efforts to reach Wool again Thursday were not successful after a message left at a New York City gallery that handles his work was not returned.
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Local officials don’t think Aspen and Pitkin County residents are taking social distancing and isolation rules seriously enough, and reiterated Monday their importance in controlling the spread of the coronavirus.