Tuesday, December 04, 2012

When good sculpture turns bad

This barely squeezes into our series on public sculpture When good public sculpture turns bad, but it’s near enough since this particular one's having a double anniversary this year. That's 20 years since Jeff Koons’s Puppy was erected at Documenta 9 (Koons wasn’t invited but went anyway) and 15 years since it was showcased outside the Guggenheim Museum Bilbao at its opening. And that's where this story starts. 

As Puppy stood in readiness for the Museum's big opening day, its 43-foot frame covered with 20,000 individual flowering plants, three members of the Basque separatist group ETA set out to disrupt the opening and possibly kill or injure King Juan Carlos and Queen Sofia. The plan was to plant explosives in potted plants and detonate them via remote control during the opening events on the Saturday. 

On the Monday morning before, two policemen saw a suspicious-looking van parked in a side street near the Museum. The number plates turned out to be false and the police saw three men dressed as gardeners carrying potted plants toward Puppy. When the 'gardeners' saw the police approaching they fired four shots killing police officer Jose María Aguirre. The police took up the chase and soon all three were apprehended along with more explosives and firearms. The square where Koons’s Puppy now stands is named after the murdered policeman.