A 113-kilogram bronze statue of the Buddha was stolen from a Los Angeles art gallery on September 18. The statue, which dates from Japan's Edo period (1603-1867), had been kept in an outdoor courtyard at the Barakat Gallery in West Hollywood. According to gallery owner Fayez Barakat, the work, 1,25 meters high, is worth $1,5 million.
“I appreciate it so much,” Barakat said. “I had it in the garden of my house and when I moved into this gallery, I installed it in the gallery garden for everyone to admire and enjoy. » (KTLA)
There are few details about the origin of the statue. An inscription on the statue, written partially in Sanskrit, attributes it to Tadazou Iinuma, and notes that it was "prayed and requested by Ryozen, master of the Shingon religious party, Dainichi-Nyorai, Yudo-no-San temple, from highest social class. (Hyperallergic)
“This monumental bronze sculpture probably once dominated the interior of a temple,” according to gallery director Paul Henderson. “Judging from the inscription, it is likely that this work was once placed in Yudo-no-San Temple. » (Hyperallergic)
Security camera footage shows what appears to be a thief using a cart to move the statue to a van waiting in the gallery driveway around 3:45 a.m. Between the arrival of the thief and his departure, only 25 minutes passed. The police intervened around 10:30 a.m. after the burglary was reported.
“This gentleman came and, I think, tied a rope or chain around this piece and pulled it over to his rental van and put it in the back,” observed Barakat, who stated that he had owned the statue for 55 years. (KTLA)
Henderson said: “We have 200 items there, but this one is our centerpiece. I don't think there is another one like it on the market. It's four feet tall, it's hollow cast bronze, and it's a stunning piece. It's really aesthetically striking and it's shocking to see something like this disappear. (KTLA)
Henderson also said that in his 12 years working at the Barakat Gallery, he had never been the victim of a burglary and that it would be difficult for the thief to sell the statue without being arrested.
“Because it’s an ancient artifact, you can’t sell this piece anywhere,” Henderson said. “You can’t go to the market. You can't take it to a pawn shop and sell it for a few thousand dollars, that's just not possible. So it's very interesting. It's like a museum theft where, what are you going to do with this object now? We're all very curious and really perplexed, to be honest. (KTLA)
Barakat also said he believed the thief had deliberately targeted the Buddha statue and had prior knowledge of the gallery's layout. He noted that the gallery displayed many other valuable items, but the thief went straight to the Buddha statue. The thief had also come prepared with the items necessary to remove an object of this size and weight, leaving behind African wooden carvings, Japanese terracotta tiles, and other stone carvings.
Barakat speculated that the item was stolen either for its weight in bronze, to be melted down, or perhaps by someone who hired the thief to steal this specific piece.
“I hope the person who stole it doesn’t steal it for the weight of the bronze, because it’s a historical object,” said Barakat, who also has galleries in Hong Kong, Seoul and London. " My heart is broken. Whoever stole it, maybe that person understood the value. They probably tasked someone, some thief, with stealing it. (KTLA)
Anyone with information about the stolen sculpture was asked to contact the Los Angeles Police Department at +1-877-275-5273.