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Apr 18, 2009

An Artwork Thought to Have Merit

Thought to Have Merit
06/20/06 - WSJ OpinionJournal by Lionel Shriver

An English sculptor loses his head.

[edited] In this year's summer show at London's Royal Academy of Arts, "Exhibit 1201" is a large rectangular tablet of slate with a tiny barbell-shaped bit of boxwood on top. Its creator, David Hensel, must be pleased to have been selected from among some 9,000 applicants for the world's largest open-submission exhibit of contemporary art.

Nevertheless, he was bemused to discover that in transit his sculpture had gotten separated from its slate base. The Royal Academy had judged the two components as different submissions. They rejected his artwork proper, a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite. Instead, they honored the slate base and boxwood support. "It says something about the state of visual arts today," said Mr. Hensel. He didn't say what. He didn't need to.

The Royal Academy denies having made an error. The slate tablet and hastily carved wooden support were, according to an official statement, "thought to have merit."

The short piece of wood for supporting the sculpture was quite nice, in its own way. See pictures of the support and the laughing head.

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