George Haag asserts that he never intended to steal the portrait of Andy Warhol from the Memorial Art Gallery in Rochester, New York, back in January.
“I did think about stealing it,” he said in an interview in April while awaiting his court date, “but I decided not to, which is relevant because it’s an intent issue.”
All he says that he wanted to do was to lift it off the wall, just to see what it felt like.
“No, honestly,” he said, “just to feel what it felt like. Like, I’ve never done that before. Who doesn’t want to pick up a piece of art off a wall of an art museum?”
So he did pick it up, moved it to another room in the museum where he left it, and then left the museum. The portrait, which is a photograph shot by esteemed artist Robert Mapplethorpe, is estimated to be worth $60,000.
A week later, Haag was arrested for attempted grand larceny in the second degree, a felony that carries the possibility of a seven-year sentence. On April 30th, he attended a hearing to determine whether or not he would take a plea deal for diversion, which would see his case moved to mental health court and replace the possibility of prison with treatment for mental illness. The judge, Haag’s public defender, and even the Memorial Art Gallery were pushing for this result.
But George Haag refused mental health court, arguing that he would be found innocent of the crime based on his lack of intent. He also disrupted the hearing until the judge adjourned it for the day, delaying the matter.
The portrait, which was undamaged by Haag’s hijinx, remained a part of the Season of Warhol exhibition at the MAG, which ran through the end of March. It included many of Warhol’s works including paintings, prints, films, and photographs, as well as works featuring him and his life.