Steal This Artwork: Adam Parker Smith Filches a Show


A large group show opening this month poses cheeky questions about theft of ideas and artworks: artist-curator Adam Parker Smith stole all the objects to be included, from paintings to an artist’s mouth guard, during studio visits.

“Thanks” will be at New York’s Lu Magnus Gallery (Mar. 29-Apr. 26). Among the artists invited to participate (they can still decline) are Scott Teplin, A.i.A. contributor Dennis Kardon, Emily Noelle Lambert and Rico Gatson.

Smith sent e-mails (forwarded to A.i.A. by one of the artists) last night and today to the more than 70 New York “invitees.” It reads, in part, “‘Thanks’ will be a large group show comprised entirely of stolen works of art or objects relating to the artists’ practice.”

After assuring the recipients that the work is safe and will be returned on demand, Smith writes that part of his goal was to call attention to the ways artists “share, appropriate and occasionally steal ideas and materials.”

Three artists who spoke to A.i.A. by phone today took a friendly attitude toward Smith’s practical joke.

“At first I felt violated,” says Colette Robins, who had a drawing swiped. “But it’s like he was acting out his coveting of the work.”

“It goes to how much we trust our artist friends,” she added. “I didn’t even notice he was carrying a portfolio and a large bag. I’m kind of fascinated by it, to be honest.”

Teplin, too, confessed to initial shock.

“I had to re-read the e-mail a couple of times,” he said. “But if anybody I know could pull off something like that, it’s him.”

Alfred Steiner is an artist and a lawyer. Smith lifted a ring that Steiner created as an artwork. It resembles a piece of candy-a ring pop-but, Steiner said, is made from enameled silver and cut glass.

“Fortunately for Adam, when I found out what was going on I was surprised but not upset,” he said. “He and I have spoken about theft of concepts.”

While not a criminal lawyer-Steiner works in intellectual property law-he commented informally on legal implications.

“I’m not sure what criminal charge would apply,” Steiner said. “My guess is you would have to establish he intended to permanently deprive the artist of an object rather than borrow it without permission.”

Smith is a graduate of Temple University’s Tyler School of Art, and lives in Brooklyn. He has had solo shows at Storefront Bushwick, Brooklyn; Ever Gold Gallery, San Francisco; and the Times Museum, Guangzhou, China. “Thanks” is his first show with Lu Magnus.

“Adam consulted a lawyer,” Lu Magnus’s Lauren Scott Miller told A.i.A., “but I believe it was one of his collectors.”