Blouin Art Info
by Kyle Chayka
Sommelier-turned-art-thief Mark Lugo became infamous after he strolled out of San Francisco’s Weinstein Gallery with a $200,000 Picasso drawing, and was later found to be harboring a stash of stolen art at his Jersey apartment (his “collection,” valued at more than $430,000 included works by artists ranging from Basquiat to Yoshitomo Nara.) Yesterday, he at last pleaded guilty to art theft in New York.
After serving time in California for the Picasso theft, Lugo has now confessed to taking a sketch by Ferdinand Leger from the lobby of New York’s Carlyle Hotel last June, valued at some $350,000 (He had previously pleaded innocent, back in December.) The sommelier will be sentenced on February 28 with an expected punishment of one to three years in prison. Lugo’s New York lawyer, James Montgomery, told the New York Times that Lugo “could be released in less than a year if he completes a prison program.”
Lugo has indicated that his bizarre string of art thefts, all of which took place within a relatively short period of time last year, was not motivated by the possibility of selling the work — it was, apparently, simply out of a refined aesthetic sensibility and enjoyment of the finer things that the sommelier took the artworks (Lugo is also thought to have pilfered three bottles of Château Petrus Pomerol, valued at a total of $6,000, from a Jersey wine store last spring). His California attorney Douglas Horngrad told ARTINFO in August 2011 that his months-long crime spree suggested he was “having some psychiatric episode, some compulsion, some mania.”
And from the Los Angeles Times
Mark Lugo, 31, was sentenced to prison in New York on Tuesday following a bicoastal series of art thefts, including the theft of a $350,000 drawing by Cubist painter Fernand Leger from a lobby gallery at Manhattan’s Carlyle Hotel. He’d previously served time in California for walking off with a $275,000 Picasso drawing called “Tete de Femme” from San Francisco’s Weinstein Gallery.
A judge sentenced him to one to three years behind bars, though he could be released after six months of toiling in a boot camp-style program.
Lugo, a sommelier and waiter in upscale Manhattan restaurants, apparently didn’t steal art to sell it. Instead, according to his lawyer, James Montgomery, “his interest in these things were aesthetic.”
Indeed, Lugo sought to satisfy his tastes, which aren’t of the shabby-chic variety. Investigators found a $430,000 collection of stolen art hanging in Lugo’s apartment in Hoboken, N.J., authorities said. Lugo has also been accused of taking three bottles of Chateau Petrus Pomerol — together worth $6,000 — from a wine shop last April. That case is pending.