Art That Doesn’t Really Look Like Art Stolen

11.09.12 Irina Dvalidze

Ding ding ding. Weird art heist news! Let’s see… We’ve had the cartoonish hole-in-the-wall getaway burglar in England’s Durham Oriental Museum, the subway-art stealing teacher, the Haring drunk-thieves and our favorite, the wine steward who stole for love.

Unlike the prized objects involved in the aforementioned heists, Rachel Whiteread’s Untitled (24 Switches), 1998, is a lot less obvious. To a civilian, it looks like an average piece of hardware rather than a work of art valued at almost $40,000. This thief has subtle taste.

Untitled is a series of 24 diverse switch “boards” created by Whiteread as a commentary on positive and negative casting. Each board contains a grid comprised of four rows of six switches, with a screw head imprint on each end. The screw head controls the switch motions, which are generated as random variables. Each piece is marked with a number on the back, which serves as the only indicator of it’s true value to any actual art dealer. The one stolen had a number 13 on the back.

The piece was seized from a central London dealer on September 26th during opening hours. Unlike the larger pieces of art that have vanished for scrap metal, Whiteread’s piece is hardly sizable and its scrap value is fairly miniscule. No signs of the piece have surfaced anywhere. Art Newspaper bets their money on a really die-hard Whiteread fan. Connoisseurship in art theft? We can get into that.