Edo Period (1603-1867) bronze sculpture of the Buddha was recovered almost a week after it was stolen from the Barakat Gallery in Los Angeles on Sept. 18, 2023. (Courtesy of the Barakat Gallery)
LOS ANGELES—A $1.5 million Buddha statue that was stolen from a Beverly Grove-area gallery was recovered and a suspect was arrested on suspicion of receiving stolen property, police said on Sept. 27.
Justin Livick, 44, was arrested on Sept. 23, when the nearly 250-pound statue was also recovered, according to the Los Angeles Police Department.
It was unclear exactly where the statue was found, and it remained unclear who actually pilfered the statue in the early morning hours of Sept. 18 from the Barakat Gallery in the 900 block of North La Cienega Boulevard, between Melrose Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard.
According to jail records, Mr. Livick was booked Saturday night then cited and released in the early morning on Sept. 24. He was given a tentative court date of Oct. 19.
Police said the statue was stolen around 3:45 a.m. on Sept. 18.
Gallery owner Fayez Barakat told KTLA5 the statue was from Japan’s Edo Period of 1603-1867.
“I prize it so much,” Mr. Barakat told the station. “I had it in the backyard of my home, and when I moved into this gallery, I put it in the backyard of the gallery for everybody to admire and enjoy.”
According to surveillance video, the suspect broke into the entrance through a driveway gate and used a dolly to move the statue onto a truck within 25 minutes.
“This gentleman came and, I think, strapped a rope or a chain around that piece and pulled it to his rental van and put it in the back,” Mr. Barakat told Channel 5, adding that he was “heartbroken” by the theft.
Paul Henderson, director of Mr. Barakat’s Los Angeles location, told theartnewspaper.com that museum officials were “shocked” that a lone thief managed to steal the 4-foot-tall statue despite its weight and drive off with it in a Budget rental truck.
“We’re all very puzzled,” Mr. Henderson told the website. “Obviously this is a high-valued piece, it’s important, and aesthetically it’s a very interesting and unique item. It’s clearly a temple sculpture from that period, and the size and the execution make it a very rare item, so it’s not something you'd find on the market, which means it’s not something that could be resold easily.
“We’re still trying to figure out what the motive was and what the thief thinks they’re going to do with this piece.”
An artist named Tadazou Iinuma is credited with creating the sculpture, the international art website reported.
It bears an inscription, which translated reads “Produced by Tadazou Iinuma, first year of Shouho, Kanoe. Prayed for and requested by Ryozen, master of Shingon religious party, Dainichi-Nyorai, Yudo-no-San Temple, of the highest social class.”
The inscription implies the sculpture was commissioned by a religious official named Ryozen and was likely once installed at the Yudo-no-San Temple, a holy site on Japan’s Mount Yudono, the online publication reported.
“I hope that the person who stole it is not stealing it for the weight of bronze because it’s a historical item,” Mr. Barakat told KTLA. “Whoever stole it, maybe that person understood the value. Probably, they commissioned somebody, a thief of some kind, to just go ahead and steal it.”
In addition to the Los Angeles location, Mr. Barakat also has galleries in London and Seoul.
Anyone with information about the theft was urged to contact the Los Angeles Police Department at 1-877-275-5273.