Artwork is discovered missing when an appraiser calls to say he has some of the lost items
Items were sold "for a small fraction of their worth," prosecutors say
Over $3 million worth of glass work created by artist Dale Chihuly was missing for over a year from a warehouse in Tacoma, Washington, before anyone noticed. Now a former employee has been charged with its theft.
The Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office said Christopher Kaul stole roughly 90 pieces of work totaling $3,082,000. Kaul worked in the Chihuly warehouse for three years and during that time stole works from the artist, according to a press release from the Pierce County Prosecuting Attorney’s Office. He sold them “for a small fraction of their worth,” prosecutors said.
Chihuly is a world renowned artist who works predominantly with glass. His work is in more than 200 museums worldwide, according to his website.
In a probable cause statement, authorities said Kaul was fighting a pill addiction while working at the warehouse between 2010 and 2013. Kaul told authorities that after a stint in rehab, he “started stealing items from the Chihuly warehouse” and said he “would take items that he believed would go unnoticed.”
They did, until 2014, when employees were contacted by an art appraiser who had some of the missing items.
“We’ve seen this story before – an employee is hooked on drugs and steals from his boss,” said Prosecutor Mark Lindquist. “The twist here is the boss is a world famous artist.”
Kaul was eventually fired for not showing up to work, officials said.
Chihuly Studio said it is cooperating with the prosecutor’s office on the case.
A private investigator hired by the studio has recovered 40 of the missing works and efforts to recover the rest are ongoing.
Kaul has been charged with theft in the first degree and three counts of trafficking stolen property. A summons has been issued for Kaul to appear for arraignment on June 15. Efforts to reach Kaul were unsuccessful Wednesday.