Before the night even began, we at the Cotton Candy Machine knew that Amart Stewart's Hip Hop Royalty Party was going to be a bit different from our previous events. It marked the end of our first artist residency, an awesome new venture that we hope to continue exploring in the future, and featured massive oil portraits unlike anything we've ever shown before. Rather than just being a show opening, this night was a true celebration of the artist and his most current work. After witnessing his hard work and incredible turn-out, dozens of good people showed up to congratulate Amar on his finished collection. People did not just come to see paintings of Biggie and Tupac, but also to simply support the artist that became a unique fixture in our shop. The night started out wonderfully. The paintings were gorgeous and the crowd was (as always) excellent. We had the whole month of February watching Amar paint in the gallery to get stoked about the Hip Hop Royalty Party, but nothing could have prepared us for the wild events that actually went down that night. As folks were happily chatting with Amar and admiring the work, four sneaky attendees were planning a heinous theft that rocked the Cotton Candy Machine community.







In spite of this awful ordeal, Amar has gotten some very exciting press lately and was even dubbed number 3 on PolicyMic's List of
Ten New Contemporary Artists Challenging Everything We Knew About Art
. How rad is that?!

Check out these other awesome articles about Amar and his work:

Frank151: Inside the Cotton Candy Machine with Amar Stewart
 
The Source: Dutch Master Paints Our Rap Royals

Bedford and Bowery: Rick Ross, Action Bronson and 10 Other Rap Royals, as Painted By a Dutch Master

A few hours into the evening, our gallery owner (and real life Batman) Sean Lenoard noticed three massive paintings missing from the back room and instantly ran out the door in hopes of catching the culprit. Being the rockstar that he is, Sean managed to chase down the thief holding the largest of the pieces, a 5 foot tall portrait of Jean-Michel Basquiat. He was able to detain the thief (while still clutching the painting) until the police arrived to arrest him. As the Daily News stated, "His thief-catching skills are a work of art."



"This was after my long chase with Louis Lassalle, who is now under arrest and facing charges of grand Larceny and criminal possession of stolen property. I found him blocks away from Cotton Candy Machine with this Basquiat portrait by Amar Stewart, stashed between a fence and a railing. I confronted him and dialed 911. He immediately started threatening me and telling me to leave. He called someone and told them I hand found him. He kept threatening me and trying to scare me off. It made me laugh even though this guy could have killed me. I just knew he couldn’t catch me and the was no way I was going to just leave. He tried to run and jumped in a cab, so I rushed to the passenger side door and opened it to yell at the driver. Telling him that I was on the phone with 911 and he couldn’t take this guy anywhere. Louis got out of the cab and came at me, threatened me again. This happened with cab after cab as I began chasing him and stopping cabs from taking him away. Doing all this while carrying a giant 5′ painting. a few times I’d just run in front of the taxi and start yelling until the cabby would roll down the window and hear me out. I had to keep updating the 911 operator as we ran through the neighborhood. I chased him almost to the subway at North 7th and Driggs Ave. Then when it got a little crowded, and I was making a lot of noise about the situation, he started chasing me back the same way we came. So I’m running with this painting working against me as a wind sail, trying to keep my distance. We got to North 4th and Driggs when I saw the police coming down the street. He tried to bolt one more time but he was fat and winded and didn’t make it far. The officers arrested him and took him away. They have been questioning him about the other suspects involved. The DA’s office has been a huge help today. Thank you friends, the news media, the art community and NYPD for continuing to help. We are still missing 2 paintings and we will find them. Thank you again for your support."
- Sean Leonard, as reported on freewilliamsburg.com

The great freewilliamsburg article continues to say, "Despite Leonard’s heroic efforts, three of the four thieves got away with two paintings: portraits of Nelson Mandela and Snoop lion are still missing. So, if you know somebody who recently acquired a giant Renaissance-style portrait of Snoop Lion or Nelson Mandela, you should probably call the cops." YES, YOU SHOULD! Here are images of the portraits. We appreciate any information you may have on their whereabouts or the suspects responsible.









We sincerely appreciate the support that the media and NYPD have shown us. Tons of stations jumped on our story, helping us to spread the word and even make National News! Thank you so much to these stations for reporting the story! We are still hoping with all our might that the paintings might find their way back home.










Take a listen to this sweet interview with Amar and Sean, peppered with some excellent Hip Hop tracks:


Here is a great shot from this radio interview!



Here are links to all the news coverage on the whole ordeal:

New York Post: Gallery owner chases down art thief

Good Morning America: Gallery Owner's Chasing Down Art Thief a Stroke of Tenacity

Free Williamsburg:
Gallery owner chases PBR-sipping art thief through the streets of Williamsburg to recover portrait of Snoop Lion


DNA Info:
Thief Who Swiped Three Paintings from Gallery Caught Red Handed, NYPD Says


Yahoo! News (GMA) : Sean Leonard hit the streets of Brooklyn when a suspect ran off with a $10,000 painting.

News 12 Brooklyn: Art gallery owner takes down thief, recovers stolen painting in Williamsburg

CBS New York: Suspect Arrested In Brooklyn After Artist Retrieves Painting, Chases Him Down

CBS  Followup: Brooklyn Gallery Owner Speaks Out About Stolen Artwork As Search For Paintings Continues

NY1 News: Man Arrested for Allegedly Stealing Three Paintings from Art Gallery in Brooklyn

Brokelyn: Williamsburg art thieves make off with giant Nelson Mandela, Snoop Lion paintings

New York Daily News: Brooklyn art gallery owner stops thief who tried running off with pricey painting of Basquiat

ABC 7 Eyewitness News: Gallery Owner Chases Down Artful Dodger

Soundcheck WNYC: Rap Royalty As Painted By A 17th Century Dutch Master

The L Magazine: Portrait of a Failed Williamsburg Art Heist

The L Magazine: The Thief Behind Bungled Williamsburg Art Heist Has Been Indicted

Bedford and Bowery:‘Art-less Dodger’ Indicted For Swiping Portraits of Basquiat, Mandela and Snoop

OMG Posters: The Craziest Thing Ever Happened at The Cotton Candy Machine Earlier This Month…

InsideTheRockPosterFrame: Amar Stewart and the art heist at Cotton Candy Machine

If you have any information regarding these paintings or the suspects, please do not hesitate to get in touch with us.

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