In Tokyo, an art exhibition where the theft of works is allowed

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Burglars, but not all gentlemen: an art gallery in Tokyo recently offered visitors to “steal” the works of their choice, but some of the loot was quickly found on auction sites.

The organizers thought that the event would be rather confidential, but the information quickly spread via social networks. So that nearly 200 people rushed to the opening, shortly before midnight on the night of Thursday to Friday.

The “criminals” were so effective that the exhibition was devalued of his works in less than ten minutes, when it was scheduled to last up to ten days.

The crowd was such that the police rushed to the scene, before the organizers cleared up any misunderstanding.

This “retractable art exhibition” was an “experiment” supposed to transform the relationship between artists and the public, Tota Hasegawa, who initiated the project, told AFP.

Yusuke Hasada, 26, managed to grab a crumpled 10,000 yen (about 83 euros) framed note, which was part of the installation “My Money” by artist Gabin Ito.

Arrived an hour before the scheduled opening time, the young man, one of the few who did not leave empty-handed, had positioned himself strategically in front of the gallery entrance, while his numerous competitors were waiting in order scattered.

Pleasure of transgression

“When they (the organizers, editor’s note) announced that they were opening earlier, everyone behind me rushed inside. I almost fell,” Arsene Lupine told AFP of an evening. “It was scary”.

The young man said he wanted to keep the larceny fruit to decorate his apartment.

But some had more venal intentions: a few hours after the breakage, several objects of the exhibition were already on sale on auction sites, at prices sometimes reaching 100,000 yen (more than 800 euros).

Yuka Yamauchi, a 35-year-old engineer, arrived a quarter of an hour before midnight, just in time to see the others leave with their loot.

“It has been a long time since I have seen so many people,” she commented, as most Tokyoites are currently avoiding gatherings for fear of being infected with the coronavirus, which is on the rise Japanese capital.

The young woman had to settle for a meager consolation prize: a clip probably used to hang one of the works. “I found it on the ground, so I kept it as a souvenir,” she said with a laugh.

The ability to steal objects helps attract a wider audience and gives visitors some pleasure from transgression, according to Minori Murata, an artist who exhibited wallets with money and credit cards scattered around.

Japanese society is not in the habit of defying prohibitions and the country enjoys a very low crime rate.

Besides, some burglars of the exhibition behaved like gentlemen, said the organizer Tota Hasegawa.

The proof ? When one of them “lost his bag with his wallet in it, the object in question was picked up, given to someone in the organization and returned to its owner,” he said.

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