Tuesday 15 May 2012

But it's Art, Officer!

Stolen Pieces by Eva and Franco Mattes (detail)

If you nip down to the Carroll-Fletcher gallery before 18 May, you can catch a rather odd exhibition. It's called Anonymous, Untitled, Dimensions Variable and behind it are contemporary artists Eva and Franco Mattes.

Rather than sticking to the old-fashioned route of making their own artwork, the Mattes have take an unorthodox shortcut and nicked it, instead.

The succinctly titled Stolen Pieces is one of the works show in the exhibition. It displays a variety of fragments which the Mattes have chipped and stripped from other, earlier artworks, including 'a length of shoelace from a Claes Oldenburg soft sculpture, a little blob of lead from an installation by Joseph Beuys and a tiny chip of porcelain from Marcel Duchamp’s Fountain' according to the gallery's website.

From 1995 - 1997, the industrious pair carefully gathered the ingredients for Stolen Pieces from museums around the world. But they displayed them for the first time only in 2010, having ascertained that by then the relevant limitation periods for their escapades had expired and they were safe from legal repercussions.

Presumably the limitation period for receiving some stiff letters from certain museum directors is still open though.


Francis Davey said...

If that's true (and not mere "puff") its utterly scandalous.

There is no limitation period on which they can rely in this case, see s4 of the Limitation Act 1980:


or indeed for the offence under s1 of the Theft Act 1968.

Why are the artists not under arrest and the gallery being proceeded against under the Proceeds of Crime ACt 2002?

"Its art" is not a defence.

Elizabeth said...

I'm not familiar with all the jurisdictions from which these pieces were taken, but it may well be that none come from the UK.

It does seem odd that (so far as I know) no museum has complained about the Mattes' activities - but perhaps they have little to gain, as the stolen pieces are so tiny.