The Violation of Vancouver's Volkswagen Sculpture

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An open air sculpture installation in Vancouver, Canada full of three-foot long Volkswagen Beetle sculptures was vandalized last week. One of the sculptures has even been stolen for the second time this year.

The History of Loss is a sculpture installation by Surdashan Shetty that is part of the 2009-2011 phase of the Vancouver Biennale. The Vancouver Biennale occurs in the city of Vancouver in the Canadian province of British Columbia. It consists of themed open air art installation and occurs for two years before taking a year off and moving on to the next one. The current theme is titled "In-Transit-Ion" and is focused on embracing public transportation and the space around it.

This particular installation features 42 identical Volkswagen Beetle sculptures, each stored in a separate compartment or "Coffin" as the artist calls them. The cast sculptures are approximately 2 feet wide, 3 feet long and weigh about 40 pounds. Every Beetle sculptured is dated on the outside which represents when it was created.


Each sculpture was created in a rather unique manner. The artist perfectly cast each one of the sculptures and then dropped it from 300ft in the air so each sculpture has a unique damage. One sculpture was created per day in the 42 days leading up to the artist's deadline.


Conceptually, this installation is intended to show the automobile to be an artifact because of the environmental damage it causes. The Volkswagen wouldn't be my first choice to demonstrate a car that pollutes, but I guess that is why I don't have a sculpture installation in Vancouver.

The History of Loss was intact until someone decided a couple days ago they had to have one of the Volkswagen sculptures. Presumably under the cover of darkness while no one was looking, the Beetle created and smashed on September 3 was stolen.


Although event organizers claim there is no individual value to one of the sculptures, they reveal that the entire installation is worth $250,000. Clearly that value is based on the artwork as a whole, but if you were to break it down minus $20,000 for Plexiglas and steel, it would appear the stolen sculpture is worth about $5500.


Interestingly enough, this is not the first time one of the Beetles has been stolen. Evidently quite the hot commodity among outdoor art thieves and vandals, last March one of the 3 foot long sculptures was stolen but has since been recovered. It is rather interesting nothing was done after the first theft to reinforce the "Coffins" the sculptures are stored in.


Although the Volkswagen stolen last week has not yet been recovered, authorities are hopeful for it will be returned. They have said anyone wishing to return the sculpture can do so with no questions asked.

Whether the thieves are souvenir seekers, loyal Volkswagen fans, proponents of the continued success of the car or just drunken revelers may never be known. For now, the sculpture sits with only 41 sculptures, unable to keep all 42 Volkswagens in coffins and out of the hands of the people.


[Vancouver Sun]

Photo Credit: popejon2/ and Vancouver Biennale