Thursday, May 08, 2008

The Bronze age

When the Wall Street Journal does an article on art thefts for scrap, it’s time to lock up your sculptures. The article was prompted by the theft about a year ago of John Kennedy’s The Spirit of Life. The 113 kilos of bronze were snatched in Brea California and no doubt scrapped. Since then a 2.1 meter 232 kilo bronze statue Miner has been taken from the Cathy Circle in LA. Valued at $125,000 it was expected to get about $900 as scrap.

In all the WSJ identifies eight sculpture thefts in the US over the last three years. Of course we had our own bronze age for sculpture theft in 2005. Most spectacular was Napier’s Pania of the Reef when was taken off its perch. Weighing in at 60 kilos she was probably worth around $30 as scrap but was found unharmed. There was a flurry of concern the same year when a guard was put on Wellington’s Bronze Form by Henry Moore, probably in sympathy for the one that was pinched the same year from the Henry Moore Foundation in England. In that case the 3.4 x 2.4 meter sculpture valued at $NZ7.5 million was simply loaded onto a Mercedes flat-bed lorry. The view at the time was that the Moore would be less valuable as scrap and had probably been shipped to the mysterious Argentine collector who buys all the stolen art in the world.

Meanwhile, in Wellington, Brenden John Marshall, possibly fired-up by the Pania heist, nicked a 3 x 3 metre sculpture from outside the Swell restaurant in Waikanae. Long Horizon by Paul Dibble was valued at $250,00. When he came to trial in July 2007, Marshall was also found guilty of blackmailing the owners by threatening to cut up the artwork and sell it for scrap if they did not pay a ransom. Marshall copped 300 hours of community work for his troubles. Who says art isn’t part of the real world?
A reader tells us that bronze is currently $18 per kilo. We also omitted to mention the five bronze sculptures by Greer Twiss stolen by thieves who used bolt cutters to break into the Wintergardens Fernery in the Auckland Domain in October 2007. Thanks W.