Precious Gnome Sculpture Stolen From Florida Museum

New York sculptor Sam Tufnell speaks out about the brazen heist.

Sam Tufnell,
Sam Tufnell, "Power Gnomes." Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.
Sam Tufnell with his "Power Gnomes." Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Sam Tufnell with his “Power Gnomes.” Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Robbers have struck the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach, Florida, making off with an adorable statue of a garden gnome. According to Artiholics, which broke the story, there is a $500 reward for the safe return of the pilfered figurine, which is valued at $5,000.

“It’s a public art piece, so there’s always some risk involved,” the artist, Sam Tufnell, told artnet News in a phone interview. “The trust between me and the public has been broken, unfortunately. It’s quite a quite a gutsy heist; I don’t know if I should be flattered or really angry.”

Sam Tufnell, "Power Gnomes" at the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Sam Tufnell, “Power Gnomes” at the Cornell Art Museum in Delray Beach, Florida. Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Titled Power Gnome: Electric Blueberry, the resin sculpture was stolen some time between 9:00 p.m. Thursday night and 5:00 a.m. Friday morning. It is one of 13 featured in the New York sculptor’s “Power Gnome” series, on view at the museum’s current group exhibition, “Lit,” showcasing works that incorporate light in different forms.

The blue gnome was rudely separated from his fellows, unbolted from its steel pedestal and spirited away. Tufnell has since removed the entire installation, and is implementing anti-theft measures before returning the other gnomes to display.

Sam Tufnell, "Power Gnomes." Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Sam Tufnell, “Power Gnomes.” Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Tufnell specializes in casting everyday objects like garden gnomes or soda cans in translucent resin, which he often tints with brightly-colored pigment. He then installs the works on a lighted platform, so that they glow in the darkness. (His work was highlighted by artnet News earlier this year at the Scope art fair.)

Tufnell told artnet News that he first began creating garden gnome works in 2012. “The idea was to make a public art piece that was already kind of mundane,” he said, admitting that it was partially an effort to “dumb down public art.”

Sam Tufnell, "Power Gnomes." Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Sam Tufnell, “Power Gnomes.” Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

“I have sort of an anti-monumental tendency,” Tufnell added, noting that he also enjoyed the humor of creating a glorified lawn ornament. The stolen gnome is actually a one-of-a-kind piece, as it is the only one cast in that particular shade of icy blue.

To date, there are no suspects in the heist, but the museum is working hard to crack the case, plastering the neighborhood in “Missing Gnome” posters.

Sam Tufnell's Missing Gnome poster. Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

Sam Tufnell’s Missing Gnome poster. Courtesy of Sam Tufnell.

As upsetting as it is to have one’s work stolen, there is a certain irony to the theft taking place in a state known for its bizarre criminal headlines. “It does go well with Florida’s sort of bizarre folk tales,” Tufnell said.

“There’s a strange irony too,” Tufnell admitted. “The lost gnome!”


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