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Painting Purloined On Eve of Art Basel

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Phil Fung's mural was stolen. (Source: Phil Fung)

Phil Fung’s mural was stolen. (Source: Phil Fung)

Gary-Nelson-600x450 Gary Nelson
Gary Nelson has been a member of the CBS4 News team since Septem...
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MIAMI (CBSMiami) – The thief or thieves came in the dark of night, leaving even-tempered artist Phil Fung with an empty place in his heart…and on a Wynwood wall.

Fung, a Miami native, painted a huge mural on canvas of a beautiful girl with bright red lips and rainbow hair.  He is among a dozen area artists commissioned to craft large works on canvas that will hang on the wall of the under-construction Wynwood Central development project during Art Basel.  Stored for safe keeping, the paintings will later be framed and displayed throughout the finished, eight story complex of shops, restaurants and clubs.  The development is expected to open in mid 2015.

Fung had almost finished his sprawling mural Sunday, working until dark.  When he returned to pick up his brush Monday morning, the mural was gone.  On the place on the wall where the work hung there is only a hand-written note by Fung now:  Somebody stole my mural…on my birthday.

“On the bright side, I did get to spend my birthday doing something, my favorite thing, which is to paint,” an upbeat Fung told CBS4′s Gary Nelson Wednesday.  “I guess somebody liked it so much that they had to have it.”

Fung said a piece the size of the on that was stolen would sell for $4.000-$5,000 at his studio in Pinecrest.

“It’s almost a compliment that somebody would risk a felony to steal one of my paintings,” Fung said.

A short way down the sidewalk, artist Arnaud Pages worked on his mural on canvas and chuckled a bit cynically over the case of the purloined painting.

“Look, you guys are talking about it.  It’s publicity for him you know?”  Pages said, laughing.  “If he was really smart, he probably stole it himself to get the publicity.”

Fung filed a police report Monday and the theft is under investigation.

Daniel Fila, an artist and curator of the Wynwood Central project, said he hopes media attention surrounding the painting’s disappearance will lead to its return.

“Hopefully the painting will turn up due to all the publicity and attention that’s been brought to the theft,” Fila said.

The loss threatened a major moment for Fung, a young artist trying to grow his following.

“This is the first time I’ve had to showcase my work here in Wynwood for the Art Basel season, so it was kind of special to me,” Fung said.

It’s too early to cry over spilt – or stolen paint.

In a sympathetic stroke, the developers of Wynwood Central have asked Fung to repaint his piece, live, beneath floodlights Thursday night before what promises to be a huge overflow crowd from the Art Basel event.

And he will get paid a second, full commission for the do-over.

“He’ll be compensated to come back out here and showcase his work again,” said Josh Oberhausen, a spokesman for the Wynwood Central project.  “The developers by no means want to take advantage of any local artist.”

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