BRANTFORD —The Woodland Cultural Centre (WCC) announced that the outdoor installation Les Demoiselles d’Arigonon, which attracted Kent Monkman fans and art fans alike, was vandalized and stolen from at the beginning of this month.
Staff noticed the outdoor art piece — which is housed in a Cadillac with five stylized and painted wooden figures inside — was broken into and two of the figures were missing on Thursday, April 5.
Artistic Director Naomi Johnson described the incident as “heartbreaking.”
“The incident was noticed by a staff member in the late afternoon,” said Johnson. “It is heartbreaking that someone would vandalize or steal from our museum.”
With over 40 years of artwork displayed at the museums gallery, the artistic staff continue to respond to the needs and diversity of First Nations artists to the best of their abilities each year. In regards to the impact of theft, Johnson said that it has garnered a lot of public support.
“We take great pride in the artists we showcase and our collections,” said Johnson. “The Woodland Cultural Centre exists as an institution to serve, educate and present works from an Indigenous perspective. The public feedback has been one of outrage that someone would do this. It’s regrettable that an incident had to occur to see this kind of support, but it is nice to know the greater public cares.”
The online response to the announcement included shame and disappointment, as is to be expected, and as an artist herself Johnson can empathize with an artist whose work was stolen, but not a thief.
”As an artist what you create is very much a part of you, and a theft like this can feel like an extremely personal violation. To have someone steal from what is intended to be a public work enjoyed by all is especially disheartening,” she said. “I can’t put myself into the mindset of an individual who would do something like this. I suspect like most thieves they don’t give a lot of thought to anyone but themselves and what personal gratification they are getting in that moment.”
The justice hoped for by Johnson and the rest of the WCC staff is not vengeful however.
“Our hopes are that someone will recognize these figures. They are very unusual and unique, life-sized and eye-catching — you can’t walk past these figures without giving them a second look. I’d love to see them returned, restored, and displayed as intended,” she said.
Brantford Police were notified of the theft and vandalism. If you have any information please contact the WCC at 519-759-2650 ext. 243.