Art stolen from Calgary gallery in elaborate heist recovered but not returned to victimized artists

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Art stolen from Calgary gallery in elaborate heist recovered but not returned to victimized artists
WATCH: It was said to be something out of 'Ocean’s 11,’ an organized heist of valuable pieces of art. The 2018 crime resulted in charges and a conviction, yet the artists impacted are still in limbo. As Jill Croteau reports, the pieces they thought were gone for good have been recovered, but not returned. – Nov 8, 2022

A Calgary artist whose work was stolen feels her treasured pieces are now in purgatory and losing value.

Michelle Krüger hanging one of her finished pieces in a showhome. Jill Croteau/Global News

Michelle Krüger had 11 pieces stolen in a 2018 heist at the now closed Gerry Thomas Gallery.

“Angst, happiness, sadness are all poured into the canvas, so when somebody takes that and walks away with it, it is such a violation,” Krüger said.

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One of the Krüger’s 11 stolen pieces. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

In the evening hours after she staged the gallery for her upcoming show, thieves broke in and took everything.

A spray-painted security camera in gallery. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

“They had spray-painted all the cameras, except they missed one. We were able to see them coming in with balaclavas and taking pieces of art, casually strolling them out,” Krüger said. “That was the start of the whole nightmare.”

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Another one of the canvases stolen in the robbery. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

Four years later and the ordeal is still lingering. The man charged and convicted of the theft returned most of the stolen pieces to police. But before they could be returned to the artists, the insurance company Desjardins stepped in and took possession to assess it for an insurance claim the gallery made after the theft.

“They’ve had the damaged artwork for a year and it needs to be repaired and come home and not sitting in a box somewhere disintegrating.”

Photos of stolen artwork. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

Jessica Spina with Desjardins Insurance said they can’t disclose information on ongoing claims.

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“We do remain in continuous communication with the client while the claim is being resolved,” Spina said in a statement.

“These are not inanimate objects or a piece of furniture that can be replaced,” Krüger said.

Another one of Krüger’s pieces taken by thieves. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

Some of the stolen artwork was in collaboration with her brother Jason Gogo, a famous artist who died unexpectedly shortly after the robbery.

Jason Gogo. Rafal Wegiel

Other pieces belong to her father, an accomplished artist who lost his vision following a stroke.

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Krüger’s father, Milton Achtymichuk. Courtesy: Michelle Krüger

“My father had a massive stroke from grief and he basically went blind, those are the last pieces he was ever going to create and those were lost in the mix and it is just devastating,” Krüger said.

If the pieces are ever returned, she is planning an exhibition showcasing the wild history behind them and plans to give the proceeds to charity.

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