Stolen outdoor sculpture recovered

One of the 10 sculptures stolen from Yale’s Marsh Botanic Gardens last Wednesday night was recovered Saturday by the Yale Police Department, which has already identified one suspect in the theft.

The recovered piece, a bronze sculpture entitled “Protecting Her Children During War #2,” was valued at about $3,500, the piece’s artist, Susan Clinard, said. The sculpture had been purchased by New Haven residents, who alerted the police when they saw a New Haven Register article about the stolen sculptures.

“The thieves tried to sell the piece for whatever they could,” said Clinard, who is the wife of Molecular, Cellular and Developmental Biology professor Thierry Emonet.

Clinard said the individuals who bought the piece on the streets paid much less than its actual value.

YPD Spokesman Sgt. Steven Woznyk declined to comment on the specifics of the investigation into the robbery, but he said the YPD is following several leads and currently has one suspect in the case.

The theft of the 10 sculptures from Yale’s botanical garden brings to light the security concerns arising from the display of art in public spaces.

The culprits broke into the greenhouse of Marsh Botanic Garden — which is located on the north end of Yale’s campus — through a window, said Eric Larson, manager of Marsh Botanic Gardens. There was no security guard or alarm system in place to protect the artwork, he said.

In addition to the 10 pieces stolen, he said, three were left seriously damaged in the greenhouse. None of the sculptures was insured.

When Clinard decided to exhibit her work at Marsh Botanic Gardens without insurance, she said, she signed an agreement with the gardens saying that they would not be liable for any damage to her artwork.

“I never fathomed that something like this could happen,” Clinard said.

She said most of the galleries where she has exhibited in the past either required insurance for the artwork or paid for the insurance themselves.

Although Clinard said she takes full responsibility for the loss of property, she said it would be wise for Marsh Botanic Gardens to take steps in the future to better protect artwork on display.

“First, they should try to get better security, and also, they should try to help bear the weight of insurance,” Clinard said.

Because of potential threats to outdoor art displays, other botanical gardens, such as the Chicago Botanic Garden, have heightened security to protect sculptures and outdoor exhibitions, Melissa Shuler, public relations coordinator for the Garden, said.

The Chicago Botanic Garden insures all of its pieces.

Shuler said all outdoor artwork at the Chicago Botanic Garden is anchored down and monitored by roaming security guards who patrol the grounds 24 hours per day. This is the only way the garden can sufficiently protect its artwork, she said.

Public artwork displays, such as exhibitions sponsored by Artspace in downtown New Haven, face problems with vandalism and weathering as well, Artspace Communications Director Jemma Williams said.

“When we have exhibitions in our public lot [on Chapel Street, between Church and Orange streets], we understand that because we’re showing art in a public space, it’s at our own risk,” Williams said.

Although the sculptures are well mounted and the police regularly check on them, she said “it’s inevitable that things happen.” She referenced an incident in which someone graffitied and etched into the glass of an Artspace window display in Ninth Square.

Artspace also insures all of its exhibitions, she said.

“It’s part of being a public artist,” Williams said. “You get weathering, vandalism and people interacting with your work — and that’s expected. Sometimes that’s intriguing, and other times, you’re saddened by the results.”

Some artists intentionally utilize public interaction as part of their art, Williams said.

Larson said the Marsh Botanic Gardens would like to host other outdoor sculpture exhibitions in the future, although they will not do so until the Gardens introduce a security system.

The Marsh Botanical Gardens will host a benefit concert for Clinard sometime after Christmas, Larson said.

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