Malaka Of The Week: Phivos Istavrioglou

Long time readers know that malaka is Greek for wanker. I’m not sure if I’ve ever had a Greek Greek wear the crown of thorns before but this is a malakatude classic.I’m still cackling like a hyena over this story in the Guardian so I’ll share the whole consarn thing:

A Greek man has been accused of the bungled theft of a Salvador
Dalí work from a New York gallery, taking the painting as security
cameras rolled and later, in a panic, posting it back.

Istavrioglou left fingerprints that helped detectives track him down –
another misstep in a botched caper that even he found foolish, according
to an account of a confession in court papers.

As soon as
Istavrioglou left the Upper East Side gallery last summer with the Dalí
watercolour , he was “scared and couldn’t believe what a stupid thing he
did”, the papers say.

Istavrioglou, 29, from Athens, pleaded not
guilty on Tuesday to grand larceny during a brief court appearance in
Manhattan where a judge set bail at $100,000 (£65,000).

accused him of stealing the painting, Cartel de Don Juan Tenorio, in
broad daylight while visiting New York. After pulling it off the wall,
he stashed it in a shopping bag and flew back to Athens with it,
authorities said.

“It was almost surreal how this theft was
committed – a thief is accused of putting a valuable Salvador Dalí
drawing into a shopping bag in the middle of the afternoon, in full view
of surveillance cameras,” the district attorney, Cyrus R Vance Jr,

Shortly after learning authorities had distributed security
photographs of him that were seen around the world, Istavrioglou took
the $150,000 work out of its frame, rolled it up in a cardboard tube –
“in a manner befitting a college dorm poster” – and mailed it back
without a return address, prosecutor Jordan Arnold said.

New York
police department detectives lifted fingerprints from the shipment that
matched one from a juice bottle that they say Istavrioglou shoplifted
last year from a Whole Foods market, giving them a name, said the police
commissioner, Raymond Kelly. An investigator posing as an art gallery
owner tricked Istavrioglou into returning to New York by offering him a
possible position as a consultant.

Federal agents intercepted
Istavrioglou at John F Kennedy international airport last Saturday.
While speaking to detectives that afternoon, court papers say, he
“indicated he knew the theft would catch up to him and wants to make
[the] situation right”

Here’s the purloined painting:


Here’s the malakatudinous thief captured by the gallery’s security camera:


This is so stupid in so many ways. For one thing, it is not only hard to sell a stolen painting, it is very hard to sell *any* Dali. Why? There are so many fakes and quasi-fakes around that the mere mention of his name should send everyone’s spidey sense tingling. Late in life, the old boy would sign anything, which has led to the devaluation of his art in the market place. It’s Dali’s final joke on collectors, fakers, forgers and thieves. I refuse, however, to call it surreal. I’ll leave that word to Andre Breton…

I’d like to thank Kirios Istavrioglou for bringing joy into my life on a cloudy winter’s day. Such egregious malakatude should be rewarded with at least a chortle. I’ll let 10cc have the last word with this ode to artistic greed:

3 thoughts on “Malaka Of The Week: Phivos Istavrioglou

  1. I also like the surreal quote.
    Bthe forgeries that you mention, the location of the genuine articles is well known – if you buy a genuine work from some unknown person, it is almost certainly stolen making it where you can’t show that you have it.
    What I don’t understand is how he made it out the door – with pressure sensitive pads being common to cover theft, vandalism, or even someone touching the artwork. Not to mention other alarms to catch folks getting too close. Me thinks the museum didn’t live up to the standard of security.

  2. a juice bottle that they say Istavrioglou shoplifted last year from a Whole Foods market
    So the Dali wasn’t his first theft of an item selling for a vast amount of money

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