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A painting by Montreal artist Simone Blain. It was one of three paintings stolen at an exhibition in Quebec City Friday April 24, 2015. Two women are credited with recognizing the suspects as they stood at a street corner, then luring them to a bar until police arrested them.

Two young women are credited with helping catch the suspects in a painting theft at a Quebec City exhibition, during a madcap night in the bohemian circles of the Lower Town district last week.

According to a co-organizer of the event, the women were at a street corner when they ran into two men who they believed had previously been seen running away with three paintings.

The women lured the suspects to a bar and kept them company until police showed up to take them into custody.

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Later that night, police officers received a standing ovation when they returned to the exhibition space with the three paintings, co-organizer Phelipe Soldevila said in an interview.

Titled Canadian Bacon 3, the exhibition, which took place last Friday, featured works from about 40 artists from Quebec City and Montreal.

About 800 people were present at the opening, Mr. Soldevila said.

By 11 p.m., the girlfriend of one of the exhibition organizers was dining at a restaurant nearby with three other women. They recalled that two men with French accents tried to flirt with them.

Later, when they returned to the exhibition, which was still ongoing, the women saw the two Frenchmen again.

Mr. Soldevila said the stolen artworks were displayed in a corridor near an emergency exit. One of the women allegedly saw the suspects unhook three of the paintings and run out the door.

There were still about 300 people at the event and some tried without success to chase after the thieves.

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The three missing artworks are worth about $1,300, Mr. Soldevila said.

It was past midnight when two of the women at the restaurant ran into the two Frenchmen at a street corner, about 500 metres from the exhibition space.

There were no signs of the paintings but the two women invited the Frenchmen to join them for drinks at bar La Cuisine, a five-minute walk away.

One of the women, who didn't want her name published, said she didn't feel she and her friend were in danger because the suspects didn't appear to be professional thieves.

"It was no exploit," she said when contacted by phone. "It wasn't hard. They wanted to go to a bar. We didn't have to push them."

She said she and her friend had no precise plan but just kept chatting with the suspects in a friendly way, then discreetly called someone to alert police.

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Constable Marie-Eve Painchaud said Quebec City police received a call around 1:45 a.m.

Two men in their 30s were arrested and charged with theft, she said.

One man was arraigned Saturday via video-link from a detention facility, while the other was released after getting a summons to appear at the courthouse at a later date.

Mr. Soldevila said the two women gave depositions to the police. He said the missing paintings were then found, slightly damaged, and returned, to applause from the remaining art lovers at the exhibition.

Mr. Soldevila said he intends to file a formal complaint with police Tuesday.

"You're stealing from our plates. This is what we do for a living," he said.

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Several emerging artists in Quebec City have been the victims of theft recently, he said, perhaps because they cannot afford the same level of security as more established painters.

"It's really unfortunate. These are no Robin Hoods, they're robbing the poor."

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