Thursday, May 01, 2008
It probably wasn't intentional, but the side-splitting dry humor in Sarah McBride's Wall Street Journal report about copper art thefts in the Southwest had me rolling:
Arizona sculptor John Battenberg, who has a 50-year career working with bronze, says he ditched the material after he woke up one day to find gaping holes in the walls of his house, where panels from his monumental work, "The Gates of Arcadia," had rested. Mr. Battenberg mostly paints now.It seems that with the great big "Prosperity U-turn" now underway and with metal prices still sky-high, recently commissioned artwork is vanishing almost as fast as home equity wealth in some parts of the country.
From the Southern California town of Brea comes the details:
When a sculpture called the "The Spirit of Life" was stolen from its public perch here, city officials reported it to the Federal Bureau of Investigation as a case of stolen art. But the local police said it was likely a different kind of crime: commodity theft.There's a pretty cool interactive graphic with all the recent art heists too.
Weighing about 250 pounds, the sculpture was cast in bronze, the main ingredient of which is copper. That made it a tempting target for thieves looking to cash in on skyrocketing copper prices by selling it to a scrap yard.
Manhole covers, pipes and wiring have already been targeted for theft in many cities, thanks to copper prices that have risen to about $4 a pound from $3.50 a year ago and $1.50 three years ago. In the prosperous Orange County city of Brea, home to a thriving public art program, big bronze sculptures are now on the hit list. The city has lost three such works in the past 18 months.
Art specialist Trinitee Manuel oversees Brea's public art programs. Along with commissioning works for bus shelters and organizing events for children, she's now something of an expert in security systems, metal-cutting tools, hidden cameras, and ways to protect open-air sculptures -- including shrub barriers. She's even considered installing LoJack-style devices on the more vulnerable pieces.