Thief rides off with 'priceless' sculpture from Edmonton gallery

Art Gallery asks Edmontonians to keep an eye out for stolen Raven sculpture worth $1,500.

Bearclaw Gallery asks Edmontonians to keep an eye out for Raven

This Raven sculpture, priced at $1,500, was stolen from Bearclaw Gallery Thursday. (Bearclaw Gallery)

Staff at an Edmonton First Nations art gallery are asking people to be on the lookout after a thief walked out with a $1,500 sculpture inside his jacket.

The missing piece, titled Raven, is by a Yellowknife artist named John Sabourin.

Measuring 13 inches long, 5 1/2 inches tall and four inches wide, it is carved from a piece of chlorite.

"It's priceless really, it's irreplaceable," said Hope Wright, an assistant at Bearclaw Gallery. "It's an original piece of art."

Wright said she was working Thursday morning when a man walked in to the gallery at 10403 124th St.

"I just had a friendly gentleman come in, leave his bag by the front door, peruse around the gallery," Wright said. "Very talkative, actually stopped to ask if we would be willing to consign some of his paintings that he does on shields."

Wright's opinion of the visitor quickly changed.

"As he was leaving, [he] picked up his bag and I noticed one of our chlorite sculptures was missing from the plinth by the front door," said Wright.

"Because it was early in the morning and I had only one other customer in prior to that, that I was with the whole time, I knew that it had to be going out the front door with this gentleman."

Wright confronted the man.

Tucked inside his jacket

"I asked him where it went as he was walking out the door," she said. "He said he had no idea, and opened his bag to show me there's nothing in it. But inside his beige zip-up jacket was the outline of a soapstone raven sculpture.

"I said, 'Well, what's that?' and I touched it and I could feel that it was stone. He said it wasn't the sculpture and proceeded to get on his bike and I actually grabbed his backpack at one point as he was trying to drive away, and then I thought, what am I going to do?

"I just yelled a stream of obscenities at him as he drove down 124th Street on his bike and the police were quick to respond but as of now ... they haven't caught him."

Edmonton Police Service spokesperson Cheryl Sheppard said police are investigating the theft but haven't made any arrests or identified a suspect.

Police are trying to get surveillance video from the area, Sheppard said.

The Bearclaw Gallery on 124th Street specializes in Indigenous art. (Google Maps)

Wright said trying to stop the thief put her in a tough position.

"It is terrifying because you get that fine line between wanting to be protective of this priceless piece of art that you're responsible for, and you're selling it on consignment for an artist.

"You really want to fight to get it back, but on the other hand rationality kind of clicks in and says yeah, this could go really bad."