A sculpture by Riopelle stolen in Montreal

Montreal, 16 August 2011, Art Media Agency (AMA).

A monumental bronze sculpture realised by Jean-Paul Riopelle was stolen two weeks ago from a private residence in Esterel by three burglars. It was found, sawn into pieces in woodlands near the town.

Jean-Paul Riopelle is one of the most renowned Canadian artists. He was born in 1923 and attended the Ecole du meuble in Montreal in the 1940′s. After WWII, he moved to France and became friends with other great artists such as André Breton, Alberto Giacometti and Samuel Beckett. He moved back to Quebec in the early 1990′s.

La défaite is an abstract sculpture he created in 1963 and is estimated to be worth $1 million. Gallery owner and collector Simon Blais has indicated that the piece is part of a series of large-scale installations, such as La victoire and Le Sphinx, which are on display in the sculpture garden near the National Museum of Fine Arts in Quebec. These pieces are composed of structural elements in cast-iron,  typical of Riopelle’s work in the 1960′s. They are highly valuable as they are unique pieces.

La défaite was stolen on 1 August. A white van that supposedly belonged to the burglars was found that same night. Visitors noticed the sculpture on the ground rather than on its pedestal. It was on display inside Jean Paul Riopelle’s studio. During the evening, a municipal guard, patrolling the sector, saw a white van and three men around the sculpture. He immediately called the police. However, by the time they arrived on scene, the 500 kg statue had already been stolen. It is likely that the thieves took it to sell its metal, even though its market value is far superior. The sculpture was found in two pieces in woodlands near Esterel but the burglars have not yet been identified.