Purloined ram, perps on lam


This ram lacked certain qualities ordinarily associated with sheep — no wool, no hope of siring progeny. He couldn’t even say, “Bah!” when he was snatched from his temporary home in a barren field at the Civic Center.

Thieves, or pranksters, pinched him in the dead of night Friday as he watched over his two similarly challenged ewes.

The trio were fashioned of bronze and cement by French artist Francois Lalanne and loaned to Malibu as part of the Summer Sculpture Exhibit curated by Carl Schlosberg.

At 300 pounds, it’s hard to imagine how they got the ram out of the fenced field at Civic Center Way and Stuart Ranch Road. Fresh tire tracks indicated a large truck with dual wheels. The chain-link gate was locked with a chain and padlock, both still intact.

“Somebody had to be very deliberate, because they’re very heavy and set way into the field,” Schlosberg said Monday. “They must have had a key.”

Schlosberg said he was tipped off to the heist Saturday morning by Michael Zakian, director of Pepperdine’s Frederick R. Weisman Museum, who called to say one of the sheep was missing.

“I was driving by Saturday morning and noticed there were only two sheep, and it seemed that there had been more the other day, so I called Carl,” Zakian said.

Schlosberg called the sheriff’s station and a deputy was dispatched to take a report, but, as of Tuesday, investigators had turned up no clue as to who the perpetrators might be. There was some speculation college students might have done it as a prank.

“An art collector would never do such a thing,” Schlosberg said dejectedly. “I’ve been an art dealer for more than 25 years and I’ve never had anything stolen before. It certainly is discouraging when you put art out for people to enjoy.”

Zakian, who was involved with Palm Desert Art in Public Places before he came to Malibu, said he knows there’s always a risk when you put art out in public. “The work is a great asset to the community. I’ve heard positive things from people,” he said. “It’s a shame something like this had to happen.”

In the field Tuesday morning, the remaining ewes were being fitted with cement shoes courtesy of artist Ed Benavente, who created several works for the show and supervised the installation. The ewes were lifted with a triangle hoist and suspended while holes were dug and cement poured to anchor their hooves securely.

Sheriff’s Det. Germann was assigned to the case Tuesday morning but had no clue so far as to how the padlock was opened, or what type of crane or truck was used to remove the sheep. “I suppose two strong guys could have lifted it onto a pickup,” Germann said.