Man Arrested for Destroying $120,000 Dale Chihuly Sculpture


A 43-year-old man has been arrested and charged with smashing a $120,000 Dale Chihuly sculpture. The piece was on view at the artist’s retrospective in his hometown at the Tacoma Museum of Art in Washington.

The incident took place on Friday, while the exhibition was closed. The suspect is believed to have knocked over Chihuly‘s Gilded Lavender Ikebana with Lapis Stem and Two Leaves, shattering the delicate blown glass.

Dale Chihuly, Gilded Lavender Ikebana with Lapis Stem and Two Leaves. The sculpture was smashed by a visitor at the Tacoma Art Museum. Photo: Bruce Ikenberry Photography.

“On the video surveillance, the defendant’s arm swung forward and a large amount of breaking colored glass appears on the floor,” wrote deputy prosecutor April McComb, according to the News Tribune.

The man is being held on $20,000 bail, and has pleaded not guilty on the charge of one count of first-degree malicious mischief. He has previously been convicted of malicious mischief, second-degree robbery, and custodial assault, and has a history of felony charges from as far back as 2006.

Installation shot of the Dale Chihuly retrospective at the Tacoma Museum of Art. Photo: Tacoma Museum of Art.

The News Tribune cites court records indicating the defendant has been diagnosed with schizophrenia, antisocial disorder, and bipolar disorder. In the past, he has been involuntarily medicated in order to be able to stand trial.

After vandalizing the Chihuly sculpture, the man reportedly attempted to enter another closed exhibition before being confronted by security. He pulled a fire alarm in his rush to leave the museum, and has also been charged with sounding a false alarm.

Staff members cleaned up the shattered glass, and the museum was able to remain open the rest of the day.

Installation shot of the Dale Chihuly retrospective at the Tacoma Museum of Art. Photo: Tacoma Museum of Art.

This is not the first time Chihuly’s colorful glass artwork has been the victim of criminal activity. This past year, a group of friends scaled the walls of the Denver Botanic Gardens on a drunken whim and made off with four pieces by the Washington-based artist worth $100,000. After realizing how serious the theft was the following morning, the thieves stashed the sculptures in a corn field, where three of them were accidentally destroyed during the harvest.

The Chihuly operation has also been beset by in-house theft, with employee Christopher Robert Kaul allegedly stealing $3 million-worth of glass art and reselling it at deep discounts to fund his drug addiction. The ongoing thefts went undiscovered for over a year, even after Kaul was let go due to his drug problem, due to the warehouse’s poor inventory control.

The Tacoma Art Museum’s Chihuly retrospective mostly consists of donations to the institution from the artist, according to a statement on the exhibition website. “His gifts to the museum’s permanent collection represent the artist’s recognition of the importance of his hometown as a constant source of inspiration and support throughout his career.”


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