FBI Agents Hospitalized After the Installation of a New Cedar Sculpture

One agent required an 11-day hospitalization.

Ursula von Rydingsvard, Cedrus, (2015) installed at the FBI Miami field offices. Image Courtesy Instagram.

Over a dozen FBI agents have fallen seriously ill after the installation of a massive cedar sculpture in their Miami field offices.

The 17-foot-tall sculpture, Cedrus, was commissioned in 2015 by the General Services Administration (GSA), which leases office space to federal agencies. The GSA paid $750,000 for the artist, Ursula von Rydingsvard, to create it, and considered the price a steal because it was “likely worth more than the $750,000 the government paid,” according to Politico.

von Rydingsvard made Cedrus, whose shape resembles that of a tornado, from western red cedar, which was imported in individual pieces from Vancouver. It was situated beside a staircase in the FBI building, soon after which employees began to fall ill—including the office’s sole nurse.

The agents’ sicknesses have been attributed to allergies to the sculpture’s cedar dust. “The health and safety issues surrounding the sculpture were real,” Richard Haley, the FBI’s assistant director of finance overseeing department property, wrote in a document, as Politico reports.

“One employee required an 11-day hospital stay and none have been able to return to work at the new field office.”

Cedrus now sits in a Maryland storage facility and the GSA spent an estimated $412,000 removing it and deep-cleaning the offices, bringing the total taxpayer cost to $1.2 million—considerably more than the $750,000 bargain the GSA believed they were receiving upon purchase, according to The Huffington Post.

von Rydingsvard is a Brooklyn-based artist known for her sculptures involving large pieces of wood, including one that is on view at MIT—notably displayed outside. While the agents recover, what exactly will happen to Cedrus remains to be seen.

UpdateThe General Services Administration (GSA) has released an official statement reporting no evidence was found to implicate the sculpture as a source of the health conditions reported by FBI employees.

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