"Picasso Man" Nickname Passes from Terry Helbling to Mark Lugo
|Mark Lugo has lost a lot -- but gains a nickname|
A raid on the Hoboken, N.J., wine steward's apartment turned up half a million dollars' worth of stolen art. The combination of the terms "half a million dollars' worth of art" and "apartment" is rare. Add "Hoboken" to the mix, and it's unheard of.
This revelation cinches it: Lugo is now San Francisco's most famous (alleged) art thief. Terry Helbling will have to hand over his crown -- if we can find it, or him. Helbling, you may remember, is the mentally retarded man who was caught with $200,000 worth of art in his residential hotel room in the Tenderloin. Helbling even picked up the derisive nickname "Picasso Man" from his jailers at in San Francisco -- a moniker Lugo is far more deserving of. Because, unlike Lugo, art thief Helbling had no idea who Picasso was.
|The treasures of Terry Helbling's hotel room|
Helbling did have a taste for gaudy, expensive jewelry and decor. But his taste in art did not seem to be dollar-driven; he favored very traditional paintings such as portraits and still-lifes. "The thing that unites these works in my mind is they are all drawing on various kinds of conservative ideas about art and painting," Gwen Allen, a professor of art history at SF State, told us. "They are reworking tropes or styles of modernism. There's a combination of really weird, eccentric taste, but it's rooted in conservative, traditional ideas about what a work of art should be." This is not a description of Picasso's oeuvre.
Of course, Lugo and Helbling do have one other similarity. In his first court appearance Monday, Lugo pleaded not guilty. Helbling -- who was caught with dozens of stolen works in his room and was additionally nabbed in the act of stealing a painting in 2005 -- still claims complete innocence.
How very surreal.
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