My Art Was Stolen! What Do I Do?

By Terri in Art Business Advice > General Art Advice

Every artist who shows their artwork in public places runs the risk of having their art stolen. It doesn’t matter if your art is displayed at an outdoor art show, indoor gallery, corner coffee shop or upscale restaurant—it can happen anywhere.

I’ve had a few pieces taken over the years and I can tell you quite honestly that it’s one of the most frustrating and disheartening things I’ve ever experienced.

Art usually isn’t replaceable, so the theft of just one piece could mean you’ve lost hours, maybe months, of work. . . all that painstaking effort and creative energy wasted, with nothing to show for it.

If you’re smart (or just very cautious) you’ll already have made some reproductions and/or high-quality scans of your artwork. If that’s the case then the loss of the original will still be heartbreaking, but it might not be as much of a financial setback.

And speaking of finances, when tax-time rolls around you CAN write off the cost of the materials you used—but you’ll also have to fill out a police report, and unfortunately no one will be paying you for the time you spend doing that. Your time is not of any monetary value to the taxman.

Still, that IS the first step. Fill out a police report so the theft is on record.

After that, there are a few other things you can do that may aid in the recovery of your stolen works of art. Go to (it’s a free website where you can list your stolen artwork) or visit the Art Loss Register for professional art recovery help. is also a good place to spread the word—after all, someone might have spotted the theft as it happened—and other local community sites would work too.

And of course, if you have a blog or website you can also post a notice there with a photo of the stolen item,

When my art was stolen, I started putting up colorful flyers on my booths at art shows with a big headline saying: "HAVE YOU SEEN THIS ART? It was stolen at. . . etc, etc." I included all the details of where and when it was taken and made sure to have a picture of the art too.

I didn’t ever get my art back, but two good things DID come out of the situation.

First, because I started taking positive steps I immediately felt better about the whole situation—I regained control. And second. . . well, let’s just say that those flyers weren’t too bad for publicity. At least potential buyers knew that my art was good enough to steal!!

If you’ve had something you created taken from you, I extend my heartfelt empathy to you. Based on my own experience, I’d encourage you to share your story with other artists—it might help other artists prevent the same thing from happening to them, and it will certainly make you feel better!

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