Another theft of a Henry Moore bronze

Henry Moore's Sundial sculpture

This sundial sculpture by Henry Moore was stolen earlier this week. All scrap metal shops should be on notice to look out for the piece, and I’m sure police are in contact with scrap metal buyers in the region:

 The 22-inch (56cm) high “Sundial” sculpture had been placed in the garden of The Henry Moore Foundation in Much Hadham, Herts, to be enjoyed by visitors. The structure, in the shape of two interlinked crescents, is believed to have been stolen between Tuesday afternoon and Wednesday morning, when members of staff spotted it missing. Police have now launched an investigation into the theft, amid fears it could have been stolen to be melted down.

Let’s hope this half a million pound work of art won’t be sold for only a few hundred pounds and is recovered quickly. 

  1. Hannah Furness, Henry Moore sculpture worth £500,000 stolen from grounds of his former home,, July 12, 2012.
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The Theft of Public Statues

Sad story via Bloomberg on the probable fate of this Henry Moore statue, valued at as much as 3 million pounds which may have been stolen and melted for scrap for a mere 2,500 pounds. 

U.K. detectives had first worked on the theory that the piece, “Reclining Figure,” was stolen three years ago at the request of an art collector. It has never been found. Hertfordshire officers said they now believe the 2.1-ton work was sold for its metal, highlighting the security risks facing high-value sculptures shown in public.

“There was a wave of thefts of statues around the time the Moore was stolen,” Dick Ellis, director of the Art Management Group, a U.K.-based company that advises art collectors on security issues, said in an interview. “There is an increase in the theft of statues at the moment,” said Ellis, a former head of Scotland Yard’s art and antiques squad.

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How to Buy a $125k Sculpture for $900?

Open up a scrapyard.  Larry Harnisch reports on the theft of a 6-foot bronze miner statue stolen last February in Los Angeles and recovered by the LA Police Department’s art theft detail at a local scrapyard where the statue was purchased for $900. 

This is an emerging problem given the high price of metals, though these prices are falling again.  This is an inherent problem with public art, but much of the blame belongs to scrapyard owners as well, which might perhaps look the other way in such circumstances.  

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Catching Up

Noteworthy items from the last week:

  • A former employee of the State Museum in Trenton New Jersey was charged with stealing a rare atlas worth $60,000.
  • Charles McGrath of the NYT speculates about who will succeed Philippe de Montebello at the Met.
  • Shaila Dewan, also of the NYT looks at the interesting litigation surrounding the Gees Bend quilters in Alabama.
  • Black College Wire looks at the possibility of the return of more vigango to Africa.
  • Tom Flynn of ArtKnows looks at the growing market for Aboriginal art.
  • Another instance of theft of public art, this time in Wisconsin.
  • Bucky Katt of Get Fuzzy “found” a new Monet.
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Public Art Thefts (UPDATE)

Publicly displayed art is at risk as well it seems. In Austin, Texas thieves dismantled the base of this 10 foot Gibson guitar called “Sharp Axe”, and carted it off. I’m not sure how you don’t get spotted carrying a 10 foot fiberglass Gibson guitar. Were some Austin revellers having a bit too much fun on Sixth street perhaps? It’s one of a number of sculptures around Austin as part of a GuitarTown public art project. It was found later in a local restaurant. I guess if something looks good enough, somebody is always going to want to take it.

A similar situation occurred in New Zealand. Today it was reported that at the New Zealand Fringe Festival, artist Mat Hunkin had his public art stolen in broad daylight, the first day it was installed. It was the first day of a 5 day massive comic strip, so things don’t bode well for the other 4 days. He didn’t sound too depressed though, “Sure, it’s not Edvard Munch’s ‘The Scream’ or anything like that, but I’m kind-of stoked that someone liked it so much that they would nick it in broad daylight. Who knows? It might end up in Sotheby’s art auctions one day.” Indeed, perhaps it will. They’ll have to wait until the statute of limitations has expired and or they manage to scrounge up a good faith purchaser though. Curiously, for an up-and-coming artist, a theft may be a great way to raise your profile.


It seems that this was not a theft at all. As Victor Engel commented, “‘Sharp Axe’ was never stolen. It apparently fell off its weak mount onto its face, breaking the neck of the guitar. Another Elephant Room customer and I moved it into the entryway to the Elephant Room at around midnight Sunday for safekeeping and notified the bartender.”

That story makes much more sense of course, but labelling something an art theft makes it much more newsworthy.

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