Friday, January 27, 2006

Hey Honey?? Where'd You Leave the Serra? Open Thread

Massive bronze sculptures around London are disappearing left and right. Over 20 at last count.

Recently missing works include a
6.5 foot bronze by Lynn Chadwick, stolen from a university and a 2-ton Henry Moore sculpture stolen from the Henry Moore Foundation just outside London. As of yet, the police have offered no clues on who's behind the alarming heists.

And the mystery of the missing massive work is not limited to London. In Madrid, a
38-ton Richard Serra sculpture has been misplaced at the Reina Sofia Museum. Now there's no proof, as far as I know, that that one was stolen, let alone by the same people, but one would think if it was just in another part of the warehouse, it'd be easy to spot.

In London, I'm sure the explanation is as mundane as the police are suggesting it is. Theives are melting the works down for scrap. But that's too depressing, so I like to imagine some gigantic (think Jabba the Hut sized) James Bond-esque villian is gathering the master works for his 40-acre garden through which he'll feel petite while he strolls.

But back to the more likely explanation, and why it's paritcularly unsettling:

While Moore's "Reclining Figure," which was stolen from the grounds of the Henry Moore Foundation in Hertfordshire on Dec. 15, is worth as much as £10 million, or nearly $18 million, as a work of art, Sergeant [Vernon Rapley, chief of the Metropolitan Police art and antiques squad] said, its value as scrap metal is more like £5,000, or roughly $9,000.
I can see the day coming when artist making work for public spaces begin to insert radio transmittors into the piece so it can be tracked down if stolen.

Consider this an open thread.

UPDATE: Via Oliver K, who always has his finger on the pulse, we find this wicked weekend chuckle...


Blogger Tim said...

The bronzes can be re-cast, no? a lot of work and money but not $18 million worth. This is curious because a painting would be utterly destroyed if reduced to scrap, a bronze still exists, in a sense, because whomever is in charge of Moore's estate could authorize a reproduction as good as the original.

I think I read elsewhere that the Serra was one of those made from several un-modified plates of steel. That one could be replaced by phone (I love Serra's work by the way). I like to imagine that the piece is right outside the warehouse where it was supposed to be stored, covering some excavation in the street. The police and museum people driving right over it to meet and discuss the case.

So, what do the insurance adjusters do in such a case. A $5 million (let's say) Serra goes missing? Do they fork over the money or insist the piece could be replaced for $10,000 without any loss of authenticity.

1/27/2006 12:09:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

I think it's a cadre of conservative artists reclaiming--symbolically, at least--a century's worth of found art.

1/27/2006 12:36:00 PM  
Blogger Edward_ said...

speaking of conservative artists, we've discussed the possibility that museums like the one the
Wal-Mart heir is building could influence a rightward swing in art schools, and I was intrigued by Zach Feuer's prediction recently on Artnet that we'll begin to see what he termed "Republican" artists in the coming years...

What do you know, Zach, and when did you know it? ;-)

1/27/2006 12:58:00 PM  
Anonymous said...

Maybe some workers in the warehouse are using the Serra steel plates to cover holes like they do in road construction.

Tim poses an interesting question as to whether the sculpture should be remade instead of considered lost or stolen. It is a similar question regarding the lack of artist's touch (think Jeff Koons, Andy Warhol or more recently Damien Hirst's new paintings) in art works.

1/27/2006 01:05:00 PM  
Anonymous pc said...

As an undergard, I once asked an art history professor why he thought most artists were lefties. It was during a lecture on the Futurists. The professor didn't answer, he just said he didn't know. I wonder, Is John Currin a Republican?

1/27/2006 02:18:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

If Republican=obsession with money, the artworld is Republican already.

Metal sculpture has been vulnerable during most of history. At least these aren't been melted down to make cannons.

1/27/2006 02:55:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Chrissie Iles recently accused me of being Republican, after I accused her of being corporate.

I know I'm in the minority, but I think Serra is so f*ing boring that when one goes missing it's hardly even noticeable. You can drive by the junkyard on a sunny day for the same effect. Just replace it with a giant rusty phallice, plant some hedges around the base, and dub it a monument to the grand feat of man over metal.


1/27/2006 03:48:00 PM  
Blogger kriston said...

But John Currin is a Republican. Unless I've heard wrong.

1/27/2006 03:59:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Is it phallus? I don't have one and therefore forget the spelling.


1/27/2006 04:02:00 PM  
Blogger Art Soldier said...

Just replace it with a giant rusty phallice, plant some hedges around the base, and dub it a monument to the grand feat of man over metal.

Holy shite that's hilarious. Pretty much agree here. I've always felt that the most dominant character of his work is its embodiment of his giant (and latently violent) male ego.

BTW, did anyone go to the Paul Chan discussion at the New School last night? I thought there were some interesting points made and plan on writing something about it for Monday.

1/27/2006 04:09:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

Damn, I meant to go to that discussion and forgot.

An unrelated thing that just came across my "desk": Did you know that the prevailing wage for fine artists living in NYC is $85,072/year, based on the OES compensation survey?


1/27/2006 04:18:00 PM  
Blogger James W. Bailey said...

As a right wing artist who has a portfolio overflowing with conspiracy theories concerning just about everything under the sun, I'd like to pull back for just a moment, do an X-Files debrief and ask this question: has anyone in Madrid actually gone to the warehouse where the Serra was last seen, knocked on the "walls" and "doors" and "floors" and "ceiling" to make sure that they are indeed walls, doors, floors and ceiling? Maybe, just maybe, it's possible that the artist Julian Beever is playing a big joke and has disguised the Serra so that it no longer appears to exist, when in fact it's still sitting right there in the middle of the warehouse!

Either that, or Al Qaeda (hoping to control the high seas with the support of Hamas) has stolen it and is melting it down to make Civil War era Confederate submarines modeled on the C.S.S H. L. Hunley. It's easy and cheap to build one of these babies, if you can get the required metal for free. Full schematics are available online -


1/27/2006 05:14:00 PM  
Anonymous ML said...

Don't know if Currin is Republican, but he was very convincing as the Tinman from Oz in Vogue in December.

1/27/2006 05:44:00 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I think we ought to get a phone call in to Banacek.

1/27/2006 09:27:00 PM  
Blogger Ron Diorio said...

I'm not sure that there will be "Republican" artists rather "citizen artists" like "citizen journalists". They will need neither the art school indoctrination nor the
prevailing political/cultural aversions of the left or the right. They will have their own shortcomings but eventually will be absorbed into the gereral orthodoxy.

I guess that is where I find myself.

1/28/2006 07:55:00 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Edna, that can't be. These artists must be older?

1/28/2006 07:08:00 PM  
Blogger Edna said...

I don't know; I am confused. I think it must be fabricated.


1/28/2006 10:16:00 PM  
Blogger Tim said...

if there were 10,000 'fine artists' and 850 of them made $1 million, that would do it. That is, the average income would be $85,000. Not impossible to imagine. If some made $10 million it would be even easier, take fewer rich artists.

1/29/2006 12:21:00 AM  
Blogger Joseph Barbaccia said...

I like the idea of recycling artworks. People are recycled. It helps clear the air. Make Room for Daddy.

1/29/2006 05:02:00 PM  
Blogger adrian said...

once i saw serra at dia:beacon i stopped trashing his phallus. but he still has a very large one to match the ego, no? just watch pbs's art 21 or matthew barney's The Order in the former he's installing a 14 story steel spike (penis) in to the lobby of an unfinished san francisco high rise (vagina). standard missionary style, he goes in through the top of the building with the aid of a crane.

1/31/2006 05:55:00 AM  

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