A $60,000, 400-pound statue that adorned a bench on the Mississippi River levee in Baton Rouge — part of a 22-sculpture visiting exhibit by an Icelandic artist intended to celebrate unity — is missing.
Authorities are asking for the public's help in locating the iron statue that was discovered missing in July when workers began removing the pieces and transporting them to their new home: the Meadows Museum of Art at Centenary College in Shreveport.
The statues are aluminum and iron androgynous human forms that were situated along the levee, some sitting on benches and others standing or kneeling at various locations. The temporary public art installation called "Borders" was created by Icelandic artist Steinunn Thorarinsdottir and arrived in Baton Rouge last year.
The installation was first seen outside the United Nations headquarters in New York City and has since traveled to other cities including Dallas, Seattle and Chicago.
Renee Chatelain, president and CEO of the Arts Council of Greater Baton Rouge, said organizers were hoping the statue had been misplaced or relocated for routine levee maintenance, but after a month of searching they have concluded it was stolen.
Baton Rouge police said investigators believe the theft occurred sometime in March or April.
The statue weighs more than 400 pounds and each of the 22 sculptures is worth about $60,000, Chatelain said. It was bolted to a bench, which was in turn bolted to the bike path, Chatelain said. The thieves would have needed tools and a vehicle to remove it.
Thorarinsdottir said in an email Thursday that she was mystified that the sculpture had been taken.
She said it was bolted by professional installers.
"That and the fact that its quite heavy, over 400 pounds, makes this whole thing even more incredible," Thorarinsdottir said.
The sculptor visited Baton Rouge in March 2017 when the pieces were installed and was honored at a reception hosted by the Arts Council. She told The Advocate then that the figures were modeled after her youngest son and their arrangement aimed to encourage interaction from the public to bridge the gap — or fill the space — between the paired statues, furthering the idea that people can look different but still have fundamental similarities.
Thorarinsdottir said via email Thursday from Iceland that she hopes the public can help recover her sculpture.
Chatelain said the installation was meant to send a message of unity.
"Now it's up to us to come together and find this sculpture," she said. "Other cities have public art, and it's such a beautiful statement of who we are as a culture. … There are too many good people in Baton Rouge who want to see this happen. I'm hopeful at this point."
Baton Rouge police are asking anyone with information about the missing statue to contact Crime Stoppers by calling (225) 344-7867, texting CS225 to 274637, submitting a tip via Facebook or visiting their website www.crimestoppersbr.com, according to a post Thursday afternoon on the Greater Baton Rouge Crime Stoppers Facebook page.
Tipsters can remain anonymous and could be eligible for a cash reward.