- Courtesy Of Tim Clark
- Baptiste Lefrançois and Tim Clark
In early January, Seven Days reported that an outdoor sculpture had been stolen in Richmond. The work of artists Baptiste Lefrançois and Tim Clark, the angular, red-painted steel piece stood more than 13 feet tall, weighed 350 pounds and required a crane to install. Somehow, though, thieves managed to wrench it from its pedestal and cart it away.
Within days, the sculpture was found in a ditch just down the road from Lefrançois' property at the corner of Huntington and Hinesburg roads. It was damaged, but the sculptors were relieved to recover it and set to work repairing their creation.
This week, Clark and Lefrançois reinstalled the work in the exact same spot.
"We used the same bolts and everything," Clark said. "We spent the morning with a flamethrower of sorts to melt the snow."
Clark estimated that it took him and Lefrançois about 36 hours, "working nights and weekends," to repair fractures and repaint the tubular steel. If that had been a job for a client, it would have cost about $1,300, he noted.
Along with the media attention they received after the theft have come potential commissions for the pair, who work together under the name SLAG Sculptures. "That's the positive outcome," Clark said. "We had to get this [piece] out of the garage to make room for two sculptures that we have in the works now. Tomorrow night we start a new sculpture."
An outpouring of small-town moral support has heartened the artists, too. The day of the reinstallation was no exception. Passersby honked, waved and gave thumbs-ups as the sculpture was erected, Clark reported. His favorite message was from a local mom who told him that on her daily drive past the spot, her 4-year-old always asked when the sculpture would be back.
Despite its renown in the community, the artwork remains nameless. Asked in January when it might be reinstalled, Clark told Seven Days, "We were trying to decide, do we wait until spring or get it out there like a middle finger to the [thieves]?" Consequently, he said with a chuckle, some locals have begun calling the sculpture "Middle Finger." But the artists themselves seem inclined to leave their work untitled.
Another thing that hasn't been resolved: Who committed the alleged art crime? Clark said the Richmond Police Department considers it a cold case — an assessment essentially confirmed by Cpl. William Bullock. "We're hoping someone saw it, but no one has come forward," he said by phone. "Until that happens, we're pretty much dead in the water." Bullock said he was not aware of any other art vandalism in the area.
In a town the size of Richmond — pop. 4,081 in the 2010 U.S. Census — Clark believes the culprits' identities may leak out in time. For now, he's happy just to put the whole episode behind him — "as long as the sculpture stays there," he said.