A view of the damaged sculpture, “Untitled Folly” (2014), by artist Robert Raphael on Randall’s Island. (all images courtesy the artist)

Last night, artist Robert Raphaels public art work was destroyed by vandals on New York City’s Randall’s Island park. The porcelain sculpture, “Untitled Folly” (2014), made of 53 individual parts, was found this morning thoroughly damaged with only three pieces intact.

Detail of the vandalized sculpture (click to enlarge)

Detail of the vandalized sculpture (click to enlarge)

The Brooklyn artist was informed early this morning and was still in shock when he spoke to Hyperallergic this evening. “An administrator of Randall’s Island emailed me this morning to tell me what happened last night, and I had to immediately get out there and talk to him,” he told Hyperallergic.

The sculpture was unveiled on May 18 as part of the Flow.14 annual art exhibition, which is jointly organized by the Randall’s Island Park Alliance, the Bronx Museum of the Arts, and Made Event, and it was expected to be on display until November 15, when the exhibition was scheduled to close.

Raphael explains that the work, which was installed under the Triborough Bridge, was his first public art commission and the largest work he has created to date. It took him nine months to complete the sculpture.

“The fact that it was ceramic was a concern [for the organizers] from the beginning, but my answer to them was ‘it is a strong material and it depends on how you use it,’” he says.

Raphael filed a police report about the incident, and though he knows the NYPD has taken DNA samples and fingerprints from the site, he holds little hope of them catching the culprits. “It’s a public art work, and I can’t imagine how many people have touched it,” he says.

Initially park administrators thought the vandals may have used a bat or other instrument to destroy the work, but Raphael thinks they could’ve easily used the rocks found on the shore nearby.

Left, "Untitled Folly" (2014) on Randall's Island shortly after it was installed last month; and, right, a detail of the sculpture after it was unveiled on May 18.

Left, “Untitled Folly” (2014) on Randall’s Island shortly after it was installed last month; and, right, a detail of the sculpture after it was unveiled on May 18.

“I knew I was putting it out there in the world, and I was expecting wear and tear, even some damage, but I never imagined that this would happen,” he says. “It’s a material I’m dedicated to and it’s a cross I choose to bear … I’m still very interested in doing large-scale work. It won’t deter me.”

The park, which closes at midnight, has little surveillance, and can easily be accessed by car and a footbridge throughout the night. The commission cost $10,000 in total, of which the artist will receive $3,000 as a fee after the exhibition closes.

This is the fourth year for the Flow public art project, and this marks the first major incident of vandalism associated with the annual exhibition.

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Hrag Vartanian

Hrag Vartanian is editor-in-chief and co-founder of Hyperallergic. You can follow him at @hragv.

4 replies on “Vandals Destroy Public Sculpture on Randall’s Island”

  1. As any ceramicist knows breaking ceramic is extremely satisfying, so at least the vandal(s) got some satisfaction, not that I condone their actions, just sayin’. Looks like these tiles needed a solid backing, then they would have been harder to smash and less satisfying. Don’t give up the large scale ceramics Robert!

  2. There is always that inherent risk that a ceramic piece will collapse while forming, split while drying, explode in the kiln, or crash to pieces while being handled. It sucks that it was some jerk with a rock who destroyed this one. I would want to smash their faces in if I were him.

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