Police Break into Art Gallery After Mistaking $22,000 Sculpture for a Dead Woman
Gallery owned by Banksy's former agent raided.
Police broke into a London art gallery owned by Banksy's former agent because they thought a hyper-realistic sculpture was an actual person who had expired. The sculpture by artist Mark Jenkins depicts a woman slumped over a table. It was visible through the window of the storefront gallery. The sight—and a locked front door—alarmed a passer-by, who called the police to intervene. Read on to find out what happened next and why the incident, though unplanned, could be considered fighting for the artist's body of work.
The case of mistaken identity unfolded on Nov. 25 with a 5:32 pm call to the London Metropolitan Police. The caller reported that a person seemed to be unconscious inside Laz Emporium, a gallery in Soho. The lights were on, but the gallery's doors were locked. About 20 minutes later, "officers forced entry to the address, where they uncovered that the person was in fact a mannequin," a police spokesperson told Artnet News. "The Met has a duty of care to respond when there is a welfare concern."
It turns out an employee of the gallery had just locked up for the day and went upstairs to make a cup of tea, the owner Steve Lazarides told Artnet News. "She came down to find the door off its hinges and two confused police officers!" Hannah Blakemore, the employee, said she was "shocked" to find police officers in the gallery. She said the officers told her "somebody reported that the woman here has not been moving for the last two hours" and that the officers assumed the figure had "a heart attack or she's overdosed."
This isn't the first time the sculpture has provoked a call to authorities. When the piece was on view at the London art fair Decorex in October, paramedics were called. Blakemore told Artnet News the officers lectured her about a sculpture of a human being that looked so real. "The work is to provoke and it's definitely achieving that," Blakemore said.
The sculpture was commissioned by Lazarides, whose sister Kristina once fainted face-down in a plate of soup. The life-sized piece depicts a woman wearing a yellow hoodie and sneakers and was made with packing tape and foam filler. The work is not for sale but is valued at $22,065. It's on view at the gallery until December 24.
Mark Jenkins, who is based in Washington, D.C., is often described as a "prankster artist." Some of his past works include life-sized polar bears displayed on city streets and mannequins sleeping in parks to raise awareness of global warming and homelessness, respectively. He has also made giant babies out of cellophane tape, which he perched on city curbs, and turned parking meters into lollipops.