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Pepper Spray At Denver Art Museum Disrupts Popular Monet Exhibit

DENVER (CBS4) - A search for a possible shoplifting suspect who discharged pepper spray inside the Denver Art Museum gift shop last Thursday hasn't turned up a culprit. The main floor of the museum's Frederic C. Hamilton Building was temporarily evacuated for about an hour and some people, mainly staff members, were treated by paramedics.

The situation came at a time when hundreds were in line at the museum with time designated tickets for "Claude Monet: The Truth of Nature," the popular exhibition of works by the French impressionist painter. Some of those ticketholders had to be turned away.

"I feel badly for the people who showed up and couldn't go in," museumgoer June Kirchner told CBS4 on Sunday.

Denver Art Museum outside at night
(credit: CBS)

"To come here and expect to be able to see the Monet exhibit and then not be able to? That would be very disappointing," said Kathy Sharpe, another museum visitor.

Sharpe's son Reid described his reaction to the news about the incident as "shocked."

"You should respect art," he said.

But some do not respect it. Just over a year ago a man named Jack Siebenlist threw sculptures and did $100,000 damage to an exhibit at the Denver Art Museum. Next door at the Clyfford Still Museum in 2011, a woman vandalized a $30 million painting. Carmen Tisch was given treatment for alcohol abuse.

As one patron, Stef Dunson, put it "To damage the opportunity for someone to see it, it is incredibly irresponsible and terrible, just terrible."

A museum official said the pepper spray did not get into the ventilation system and there was no damage to any of the artwork. Denver police last reported no one had been identified as a suspect and no one is in custody.

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