Empty plinth becomes piece of art

The UK's Royal Academy rejected a sculpture for its Summer Exhibition – but decided to display the empty plinth it sat on.

The UK's Royal Academy rejected a sculpture for its Summer Exhibition – but decided to display the empty plinth it sat on.

Artist David Hensel was delighted when he heard that the piece he had submitted for the annual show, a laughing head made from jesmonite resin and entitled One Day Closer To Paradise, had been accepted by the Academy.

But when he attended a special preview of the exhibition, he found himself looking at the plinth, empty save for the tiny piece of wood intended to keep the head in place.

Mr Hensel, 64, a member of the Royal Society of British Sculptors and an artist for more than 25 years, assumed staff had accidentally left the sculpture in the basement where it was being stored.

But today the Academy said the decision not to display the head was deliberate.

The judging panel had assumed the two pieces were separate art works and decided the plinth was better.

“David Hensel’s work One Day Closer To Paradise was submitted to the Royal Academy of Arts Summer Exhibition 2006 as two separate pieces.

“Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently.

“The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted. It is currently on display. The head has been safely stored ready to be collected by the artist,” the statement said.

“It is accepted that works may not be displayed in the way that the artist might have intended.”

The coordinators of the exhibition in Piccadilly, central London, have been called in to make a final decision over whether the head should be returned to its rightful place.

Hensel, of East Grinstead, West Sussex, told the Evening Standard: “I was very excited about going to London to see my sculpture on display but I walked all the way round the gallery looking for it and couldn’t find it.

“Eventually I saw just the base on a shelf with the piece of wood that was meant to keep the head in place on it, which looks like a bone.

“I was really amazed and very surprised – when I told one of the gallery officials my sculpture was missing she went pink and I had to have a laugh to myself.

“Some people have the ability to look at anything and say it is art but I would rather have my sculpture there.”

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