By George Christou
MODERN works of art worth €340,000 were stolen from a warehouse used by the Pharos Arts Foundation, on Nicosia’s Green Line.
Among the items stolen were three metal tables and a wrought-iron door by well-known British artist Richard Wentworth valued at about €20,000 each. He had exhibited the tables and door as well as at an exhibition at the Pharos Centre of Contemporary Art in 2007.
The theft was reported by the President of the Foundation Garo Keheyan who had gone to the warehouse on Monday with a removal crew to move cases containing art items. He found the cases prised open and the contents missing.
Police investigations have so far yielded nothing, even though speculation suggested that the thieves had broken into the warehouse looking for scrap metal, which has become a valuable commodity in these recession-hit times as it is easy to sell.
There were significant amounts of scrap metal that were part of art installations stored in the warehouse which is situated on Ermou Street, bordering the buffer zone in old Nicosia. Art would be sold as scrap metal.
Ironically, artists like Wentworth, who had visited Cyprus several times, would take discarded objects and turn them into art objects, which could now be sold as scrap by the kilo.
A sledgehammer, found in a neighbouring garden and believed to have been used by the thieves to make a big hole in the back of the warehouse, was part of an art installation. It was taken by police for forensic tests.
The thieves had smashed a hole in the wall at the back of the building to get in and removed sheets of corrugated iron from the roof (perhaps to sell as scrap) in order to remove some of the art items that were bulky and heavy.
This was how they walked away with a 3×1 metre wooden frame with glass and other large-sized items. They had also demolished the mezzanine at the back of the building.
Many of the items, like the Wentworth tables, belonged to the artists and were with the Pharos Centre of Contemporary Art on consignment.
Keheyan expressed shock at what had happened. He said: “It is so sad that people on this island are resorting to theft as a way of making a living.”
Two large art items that were not deemed valuable enough by the thieves and were left behind had been used to cover a gap in the barrier-fence on the Green Line. A neighbour had found them discarded and used them to close the gaps in the barrier.
The items on chipboard, which the thieves snubbed and the neighbour used as a barrier against the Turks, were by the renowned, late, Armenian artist Marcos Grigorian, who has work on display at the Museum of Modern Art in New York.