Yesterday the New York Post reported that 18 life-size, artist-designed fiberglass tigers weighing 80 pounds each, were stolen in broad daylight from the Gramercy apartment of Italian entrepreneur and oft-derided Page Six regular Paolo Zampolli. Apparently, while Zampolli was in Miami, the bandits cleared the tigers out of his apartment and loaded them onto a flatbed truck, while his neighbors took photos. While other outlets picked up the Post’s story, ARTINFO tried to figure out how over $600,000 in life-size tiger statues could be stolen in the middle of the afternoon, in the middle of New York City.
Earlier this year Zampolli created the Global Tiger Fund, which, according to the organization’s website, partnered with the Tiger Parade Project (also a Zampolli endeavor) to commission the design of 50 life-size tiger sculptures for public display in the “urban jungle” as a way to raise awareness of the endangered species. Then, the tigers were to be auctioned off, with proceeds going to the Fund, which describes itself as a not-for-profit, but lacks that all-important non-profit recognition by the IRS. Artists like Domingo Zapata and Peter Tunney agreed to design tigers, as did Veronika Vařeková, and other lesser-known artists like Rohan Marley (son of Bob) and Miri Ben-Ari (an Israeli violinist), as reported by the Post.
The first conspicuous detail in the tabloid’s story on the theft — other than the unlikelihood of a $17-million apartment not having a security system (Zampolli told CBS that his chief of staff called him and told him that “the lock was broken and the tigers are missing”), or that thieves would steal 80-pound tigers by unknown artists, rather than things like his two-year old son’s Patek Phillip watch — was that the photos in the Post piece, with captions that suggest they were taken by Zompolli’s neighbors mid-theft are near-duplicates of a photo on the Tiger Parade Project’s Facebook page, dated August 28, 2012 and captioned, “Another stroll down the streets of NYC.”
Two of Zapata’s statues were reportedly sold to Giants tight end Jeremy Shockey for $100,000 each last week in Miami, and two of his were also reportedly stolen from Zampolli’s apartment. Strangely, Zapata is pictured in the Tiger Parade’s Facebook page with at least five different blank tigers (even though each artist was only going to design one or two), and the SLS Hotel in Miami hosted an event in which it appears that dozens of tigers designed by Zapata were displayed during Art Basel Miami Beach, but when contacted about the missing tigers, Zapata’s studio had no comment.
The NYPD could only confirm that a complaint has been filed, and that an active investigation is taking place.
There is one thing in this story that seems certain: Zampolli really does love tigers. He loves them so much he brought a litter of adorable tiger cubs to his last birthday party.
UPDATE: According to a source close to the case, the thieves kicked-in the door to the Gramercy building where the tigers were stored, which is an under-construction townhouse owned by Zampolli, not his residential apartment.