BEAUFORT COUNTY

Art theft mars exhibit at Beaufort County office building

cconley@islandpacket.comJuly 19, 2012 

A picture of an egret that was on display in the hall of the Beaufort County Administration Building among dozens of other works by members of the Beaufort Art Association went missing in late May or early June. A sign has been hung on the wall in place of the painting indicating that it is missing and asking for its return.

JAY KARR -- STAFF PHOTO

A photograph of a Great Egret that hung in Beaufort County's administrative offices has taken flight.

The artist hopes it comes home to roost soon.

The picture, shot by Beaufort resident Richard Furman, shows the bird preening as several young chicks look on and is part of a Beaufort Art Association exhibit. Furman called the piece, which he took on Callawassie Island, "Preening 101."

It's not clear when the picture was stolen, but exhibit organizers believe it was sometime between May 18, when it was first hung, and June 6. Officials reported the piece, priced at $95, stolen June 19.

Such thefts are rare, said Lynne Morgan, who coordinates two galleries in the county's offices on Ribaut Road in Beaufort and others at Lowcountry Medical Group and Beaufort Ob/Gyn Associates for the art association.

Where the photo once hung, Morgan posted a picture of the missing work with a note asking that it be returned.

"I figured if I put a picture of it there with a thing that said, "Missing," maybe someone would come in and say, 'Oh, my God, I just got that for Father's Day,' or ... 'I just saw that hanging in someone's house,' " she said.

While the theft may not rise to the level of an art theft from the Louvre, Morgan believes the job required a bit of finesse nonetheless.

"It was a big piece, about 16 inches by 20 inches," she said. "You don't just put it under your shirt ... and walk out with it."

Furman, a retiree who has been shooting photos since the late 1960s, acknowledges being flattered, on some level, that someone wanted his photo badly enough to steal it.

On the other hand, he'd rather the thief showed him the money.

"I would love to have it back," he said, "unless they want to pay for it."

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