Disturbance at Denver Art Museum leaves pieces of art ‘compromised,' one man detained

Posted at 8:53 AM, Dec 10, 2018
and last updated 2018-12-11 09:59:59-05

DENVER — A number of art pieces were compromised Sunday afternoon after a disturbance at the Denver Art Museum.

On Sunday at 1:47 p.m., a man, who was identified Monday morning as 18-year-old Jake Siebenlist, was taken into custody in the Denver Art Museum after an alleged vandalism, according to Tyrone Campbell with the Denver Police Department.

Shadia Lemus with the Denver Art Museum said “artworks were compromised” on the fourth floor. Police said the incident occurred in the Stampede Art Gallery, which focuses on animals. 

According to court documents, several witnesses and security saw Siebenlist causing extensive damage to various art sculptures, artifacts and paintings. He walked to a glass structure and pushed it over, causing it to shatter, the documents reads. 

Security tried to gain control of the man, who pushed museum patrons out of his path to make his way to other art pieces. He started to throw sculptures across the room, causing them to break, and shattered other sculptures on the ground, according to the the documents. He also attempted to damage two paintings that were protected by plastic glass, but couldn't get past the glass. 

As security got ahold of him, he attempted to punch the guards, according to the documents. Security officers were able to keep him down until police arrived and placed him in custody. 

As described in the document, 10 items were damaged and destroyed:

  • Wolf head dress mask
  • Raven rattle tlingit
  • Jain-style figurine
  • Moche portrait bottle
  • Chinese vase with phoenixes
  • Moche rattle bow
  • Mayan fish-shaped vessel
  • Mayan vessel with God on a bird
  • Chinese initiator sculpture 
  • Beware of Cranes sculpture

Director of the Denver Art Museum Christoph Heinrich said the man's motivation remains unknown, but he was very aggravated and behaving unreasonably. He said he can not put a total value on the items since they do not have a market price, though each one carries an enormous cultural value. 

This was the first time something like this happened at the Denver Art Museum, he said. He said he is not sure why Siebenlist targeted the gallery, since it is not controversial. He said staff will need to work on repairs for a long time and it won't be easy, especially for the detailed works. 

Siebenlist had bought a ticket like any other guest and his behavior was "unpredictable," Heinrich said. 

He is being held on investigation of felony of criminal mischief for the damages. 

Lemus said the majority of the floor will reopen Monday.

No injuries were reported, and no other visitors were involved, Lemus said.