Art And Culture

Protecting Art Works in Public Spaces From Theft

Protecting Art Works in Public Spaces From TheftProtecting Art Works in Public Spaces From Theft

The theft of urban statues and ornamental art works displayed in public spaces in Tehran are occasionally reported by the mass media. But who is responsible for the security of artworks or to be blamed for the criminal acts, remains unanswered.

The latest in a series of such incidents is the theft of a 120kg bronze statue on Imam Khomeini Street in Municipal District 12 in downtown Tehran. The artwork was of a boy dropping a letter into the mailbox located in front of the Post and Communications Museum.

The robbery did not happen overnight; the artwork first lost its arms and soon after completely vanished.

Although the theft came as a shock to the residents and authorities, it was not the first of its kind in the overpopulated metropolis.

Five years ago, 12 giant bronze statues, each weighing 700 kilos, were stolen from the capital. The thieves have not been identified or caught so far and the blame game continues.

According to managing director of the Tehran Beautification Organization Isa Alizadeh, the TBO is in charge of designing, creating and installing statues and artworks across the city but “they fall out of TBO’s jurisdiction once they are placed in urban spaces.”

The TBO is responsible for installing or restoring works of art but protecting public properties against vandalism or theft is the  function of the law enforcement forces, he told IRNA.

The TBO has reported the latest theft of artwork to the local police station and is awaiting investigation given that surveillance cameras might have captured pictures of the culprit.

 Costly Installation

Alizadeh says the statue was stolen for monetary gain. “The TBO initiated action to repair the damaged statue after the arms were stolen, but when the restoration team arrived, there was really nothing to reattach the arms.”

One of the selected works in the first Tehran Urban Sculpture Biennial in 2009, the statue was initially thought to have been taken by the sculptor, Ebrahim Eskandari, for repairs.

“A number of sculptors and artists are tasked with creating urban artworks and the whole process cannot be closed due to a few instances of burglary,” he said, in response to proposals to stop installing such structures around the city, adding that a new statue will replace the stolen one.

Stressing that the task to protect artworks in public spaces would be easier if passersby and witnesses report such incidents right away, Alizadeh said reinstallation of the statue will cost the TBO $9,000-12,000 (300-400 million rials).

People can dial 137 to report any cases of theft or vandalism to public property, he added.