Reality Bites in New Zealand

Here’s an odd art theft story out of New Zealand.

Two weeks ago, a man walked into the lobby of the QT Hotel and, when staff was otherwise occupied, walked off with a sculpture weighing nearly 45 pounds.

The stolen piece was the late Daniel Campion’s Reality Bites 1.0, is a resin block encasing a pistol from which a bullet—suspended in midair—has been fired at a human skull covered in bits of currency.

Writing for Stuff, Andre Chumko reports that the sculpture was a personal favorite of its owner, art collector and former owner of the hotel, Chris Parkin. Parkin owns a number of works by Campion.

What makes the theft interesting isn’t just the gall required to lift the heavy piece and walk out with it (at 5:45 am no less), but that though the thief has been arrested, the sculpture remains missing.

The culprit, a yet-to-be identified 31 year old man, who was captured on the hotel’s CCTV, will be charged later this month. But still, Parkin has received no word that his art has been recovered. What’s more, he wasn’t even informed of the arrest.

That Parkin’s sculpture remained in a hotel he no longer owns isn’t a surprise given his attitudes on the display of art. He told Stuff’s Bess Manson in February of this year:

"Art should be about your day-to-day living. Art should be something you surround yourself with which gives you pleasure and adds to your life. Where better to do that than in an environment where you go to eat and drink?"

And to hang one’s hat while on a trip, too, it seems. But four months later, Parkin has learned that the risks of exhibiting art in an unsecured public setting extend beyond just dust, wear, and tear.

I suspect that we’ll soon learn that the sculpture has been recovered. The price tag for the piece is estimated to be less than $5000, and given its construction, it’s unlikely to have been destroyed.

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