Just for fun Life in general

The Time I Did Not Steal A Van Gogh (which I now kind of regret)

So Back in the Day I lived in Sherbrooke, Quebec, which has a better-than-you’d-expect art gallery, the Musée de Beaux-Arts de Sherbrooke. A converted really huge three-story mansion.

There was a touring exhibit of impressionist painters that was hitting all the big Canadian galleries that year. You got your Monets, you got your Van Goghs, like one or two lesser paintings from a bunch of the big names. And for some reason, it gets a week at MBAS as well as all the bigger-city galleries. This didn’t get a ton of fanfare: an article in the local French papers and in the sole local English paper.

This is partly because MBAS building would be really big for a house, but it was pretty small for a gallery. I don’t think they had a budget for marketing or promotion at all. The total staff count in there at any point would usually be two people: somebody at the front desk / coat check who would also dash over if somebody was in the tiny gift shop, and a wandering security person.

So this travelling exhibition is up on the third floor of MBAS, and as a frequent visitor, I know a few things:

  • You just walk into the gallery. It costs I think $5 as a suggested donation. Nobody checks your ID or anything.
  • The fire escape, which you can access through a normal screen door leading to a small balcony from the always-open third-floor break room, is a set of stairs running right down to beside the gallery. It is always unlocked and unalarmed. I’ve seen enough people ducking out there for a smoke over time that I’m aware of that.
  • There’s one security person; on the day I drop by to see the Impressionists, it’s a women in I’d guess her 70s. They walk every floor, very slowly, so once they leave the third floor to walk downstairs and start over at the first, you’ve got probably a 20-minute window before they get back to the third floor.

Faced with the Impressionists, I also realize:

  • They’ve just, like, hung the paintings. Like you or I would. They don’t seem to be super affixed to the walls with some sort of weird backing systems, they aren’t locked or behind glass. They’re just there, wire on a nail style.
  • There are, at least to my ability to see them, no security cameras or anything. I’d never really cared to look before, but I’m suddenly motivated by the realization that
  • I can totally steal a fucking Van Gogh.

Spoiler: I didn’t. But man, I thought real hard about it. Not to keep, but just, you know, take it down, wander down the fire escape, loop the block and drop it back off. Or take it home for the night and drop it off in the morning.

Do I regret not stealing a Van Gogh? Hell yeah. I wish to this day I’d nutted up and temporarily stolen a Van Gogh. Maybe I was missing something and an alarm would have gone off and I would have been charged with attempted theft of a Van Gogh, but if you’re gonna crime, what a crime to crime.

And maybe I wasn’t missing something! Maybe I could have 100% stolen a Van Gogh. And for the rest of my life been dining out on The Time I Stole the Van Gogh.

But I didn’t. So instead all I have is The Time I Could Have Stolen A Van Gogh And Didn’t. Which is what you’re getting here.