At about 6 p.m., on Thursday, Aug. 4, a young man in a beige baseball hat, a green hoodie, blue jeans and running shoes entered an elevator in a Chelsea office building and stared directly at the security camera inside. He had a poster tube in his hand, and a thin mustache across his upper lip.
Police now believe that man snatched an artwork by KAWS—the pen name of Brooklyn street artist Brian Donnelly—from a second-floor hallway, ducked into a nearby bathroom, smashed its frame and slipped it into that tube.
The owner of the work—a large Calvin Klein ad featuring Kate Moss, taken from the side of a bus kiosk, which KAWS painted over with white and purple shapes—was the New Jersey-born fashion entrepreneur Marc Ecko, who has offices in the building.
This theft, The Transom thought, seemed a little suspicious. There was the mustache, the fact that it happened in broad daylight and Mr. Ecko’s knack for generating publicity: in 2006, he commissioned a video that purported to show graffiti artists tagging Air Force One, and the next year he purchased Barry Bonds’s 756th home-run ball, branding it with an asterisk.
“I’ve heard that I’m trying to pull a media stunt,” Mr. Ecko told The Transom in a telephone interview. He cackled. “But it’s not that. It authentically got boosted.” Mr. Donnelly, for his part, told The Transom via email, “If it is a media stunt, I have not been let in on it.”
The Transom ventured to Mr. Ecko that the theft was a bit brazen, taking place at the end of the work day, in full view of video cameras. “Is it?” Mr. Ecko asked. “If you’re in the business of wanting to rob some shit, that’s probably prime time.” It was nearing the end of the week, he said, and many employees had left the office.
“It doesn’t happen like in the movies, where they sneak in over the laser at night,” Mr. Ecko said. “It’s a lot more like a bad Beastie Boys video. It’s a lot more campy.” That mustache!
Reports have put the value of the work at $100,000. “I think it’s probably worth more,” Mr. Ecko said. “But it’s not about the money. It’s not a good vibe to break into people’s shit and take their shit.” He added, “It’s an important piece.”
Police said that they are continuing to hunt for the suspect. “I have my hunch about how it was done and by whom,” Mr. Ecko told us. But he declined to expand on that tease. “It’s probably not worth it,” he added cryptically.
“Is there irony because it was a piece born from the street that got stolen?” Mr. Ecko asked, reading The Transom’s mind. “Yeah, I guess if you’re looking for irony, yeah.” The Transom was silent. “Look, life is chock-full of irony. At the end of the day, someone robbed some shit from my office. It’s not a nice feeling.”