Tony Matelli’s Stray Dog Sculpture Stolen From New York Subway Station

Canine caper is a "dog-gone" mystery.

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Tony Matelli’s Stray Dog (2014) was stolen from 72nd street and Broadway and abandoned in Riverside Park.

It’s a real “man bites dog” story.

Tony Matelli’s bronze sculpture of a lost seeing-eye dog with a harness, Stray Dog—part of a public art program along a stretch of Broadway in Manhattan—was stolen early on March 15 from where it was installed on 72nd street and Broadway, outside a busy subway station. The thief or thieves removed the bolts securing the dog to the ground, then carried the sculpture, which weighs more than 100 pounds, as far as Riverside Park, a few blocks away, before abandoning it against a tree.

A fan of Stray Dog who lives nearby looked out her window and spotted the “lost” dog against the tree in the park yesterday. Sniffing out the fact that something was amiss, she alerted the police.

“It’s almost the perfect realization of the work,” Matelli told artnet News by phone. “It’s quite nice and beautiful.”

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Tony Matelli Stray Dog (2014) outside the 72nd street subway station in Manhattan.

Matelli described the incident as more of “a pain in the ass” than anything else.

It’s the second time this month that an artwork has been briefly stolen in New York; see Oscar Murillo Painting Goes Missing From MoMA—Was it Theft?

Perhaps Matelli’s low-key attitude comes partly from past experience with people tampering with his work. Another of his public artworks, Sleepwalker, a life-size hyperrealistic sculpture of a male somnambulist in his underwear, was vandalized while on view at the Davis Museum at Wellesley College. Following complaints about the sculpture, including some asserting that it was suggestive of sexual assault, the work was splattered with yellow paint. (See Wellesley College Sleepwalker Vandalized.)

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Tony Matelli’s Stray Dog propped up against a tree in Riverside Park after the thief who stole it abandoned it.

Matelli doesn’t see much similarity between the two incidents, noting of the dog theft, “It seems more like it’s just vandalism or hooliganism. I’m guessing it was a prank rather than politically motivated.”

Max Levai, director of Matelli’s gallery, New York’s Marlborough Chelsea, told artnet News that Stray Dog has been among the most popular of the ten artworks in the program (see Marlborough Will Park Public Sculptures Along Broadway), his own brainchild, called “Broadway Morey Boogie” (a play on the title of Piet Mondrian‘s painting Broadway Boogie Woogie). It runs from Columbus Circle to 166th Street and continues through April. All are American artists under 50, chosen because, as Levai put it, “In New York City, public art is usually reserved for dead artists working in bronze.” The participants include Joanna Malinowska (at Columbus Circle), Devin Troy Strother (at 72nd Street), Lars-Erik Fisk (79th Street), and Matt Johnson (166th Street).

Levai is scheduled to see Stray Dog this afternoon, assess any damage, and file a claim with the NYPD. Matelli was unsure about prospects for reinstalling the work. He’s preparing for a two-part show at Marlborough Chelsea and the gallery’s Broome Street location that opens May 16.


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