US Law Enforcement Wants to Destroy Artwork Made from Decommissioned Weapons
The collector must apply for a firearms import permit to get the work.
The US Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) has seized a sculpture at Philadelphia International Airport made entirely from decommissioned weapons by the Mozambican artist Gonçalo Mabunda.
The ATF told collector Adam Solow, who had bought the work for $8,200, that he must apply for a firearms import permit if he wants to keep the piece. The ATF has even threatened to destroy or dismantle the artwork unless the collector complies.
A similar War Throne by the artist is currently featured at the Venice Biennale.
Solow insisted that the sculpture poses no threat. He told local news site philly.com, “This is a piece of art, a cultural object. Unless I was MacGyver, I don’t know how I’d be able to reconstitute all those pieces and make it into a working weapon.”
The immigration lawyer and collector of contemporary African art explained, “What drew me to this is that the artist is basically taking something disgusting and deadly and making it into a piece of art.”
Influenced by Mozambique’s deadly 16-year civil war, Mabunda recycles discarded and found weapons to take the killing machines out of circulation. In 2012, the artist told CNN, “If we destroy the weapons, the same weapon’s not going to kill anymore.” He says his art is “trying to represent each [person] who died with this same material.”
Interestingly, Mabunda’s work has been successfully imported into the US before. One of the artist’s sculptures is currently on view at the Brooklyn Museum, and another piece was featured in a group show at the Ethan Cohen Fine Arts gallery in New York earlier this year.
Solow pointed out that “These nearly identical pieces by the same artist are here and free. They didn’t have to be destroyed or reconstituted to be allowed to be imported into the US.” The lawyer added “We think the ATF, in their definition of what a firearm is, is really digging here.”
Solow and his law firm partner Alex Isbell are currently preparing a lawsuit to challenge the ATF. “I’m just trying to save this piece from destruction,” he insisted. “It’s too important and too beautiful a piece to destroy.”
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