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This sculpture by a famed US artist was destroyed by South Korea for being ‘an eyesore’

Authorities say they received a lot of phone calls from pedestrians and residents in the area demanding withdrawal of the art work as it was turning into an eyesore.

art and culture Updated: Jan 18, 2018 14:53 IST
Agence France-Presse, Seoul
South Korea,Seoul,Dennis Oppenheim
Chamber, an installation art work by Dennis Oppenheim, was on display at Haeundae beach in Busan. (AFP)

One of the last sculptures by US artist Dennis Oppenheim has been destroyed by local authorities in a South Korean city on the grounds that it was becoming an “eyesore”. Art lovers have expressed shock and anger over the demolishing of Chamber, installed next to the beach at Haeundae in Busan.

Oppenheim, a conceptual and performance artist as well as a sculptor, has works in the collections of the Centre Pompidou in Paris, the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and London’s Tate Gallery, among others, and public art on show in several cities around the world. But that counted for nothing to the Haeundae District Office. The steel and plastic Chamber, inspired by the structure of a flower, was more than eight metres wide and six metres high, and cost 800 million won ($750,000).

Chamber was one of the last sculptures by Oppenheim. (AFP)

Intended as a tourist attraction where visitors could walk between the “petals” and take pictures, the organisers of the Busan Biennale -- -- one of South Korea’s top art events which helped in the commission -- described it on their website as “a particular sensory experience for the viewer”. The walls “are gentle, wave like configurations” they said. “But in journeying through to the middle you realise that you’re being restricted, the walls are closing in.” But time and the seafront location were not kind to the work, Haeundae district office official Shi Yun-Seok told AFP.

It began to rust because of brine and was damaged by a typhoon in 2016, he said. “We also received a lot of phone calls from pedestrians and residents in the area demanding its withdrawal as the art work was turning into an eyesore,” he said, and workers were sent in last month to raze it to the ground. “We’ve sent the wreckage, mainly steel pipes and polycarbonate materials, to a waste dump”, Shi added, denying local news reports that the metal was sold for scrap. Shi admitted that the district office had failed to inform Oppenheim’s estate -- which holds the intellectual property rights to the work -- of its removal.

Representatives of the Busan Biennale were outraged. “I’ve never heard of something like that happening before,” spokeswoman Moon Ju-Hwa told AFP. “I was deeply shocked and flabbergasted that this precious artwork was demolished in such a nonchalant manner,” she said. Oppenheim never saw the work in situ, dying of cancer two months before it was unveiled in March 2011.

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First Published: Jan 18, 2018 14:51 IST