A bronze sculpture by B.C.-based artist Marie Khouri has been stolen from B.C. Children’s Hospital.
Weeks after the artwork was installed in an outdoor garden near the Vancouver hospital’s Oak Street entrance, a thief made off with the 36-kilogram bronze in the early hours of April 3.
Video surveillance showed an individual using tools to remove the sculpture from its pedestal, lifting it onto a cart, and pushing it away. The theft has been reported to Vancouver Police.
“It was a distressing discovery, to say the least,” said Malcolm Berry, president and CEO of the B.C. Children’s Hospital Foundation.
The art work was a double donation to the hospital — donated by Khouri to the foundation for fundraising purposes in 2019, then purchased at auction by a person who donated the piece back to the hospital, which displays art to help create an environment of healing and recovery for patients, their families and staff members.
Because of the pandemic, installation was delayed for a couple years. It was finally installed in late February.
Khouri said she was in disbelief after being informed of the theft. The harm isn’t to her, or to the foundation or hospital, she said. It’s to the kids and families who seek care at the hospital.
“We as artists donate things of such scale to the hospital to create space, a little bit of happiness … creating a healing environment for these children,” she said. “Of all places, it’s just so incredible they would do that from a hospital.”
The sculpture, part of Khouri’s Vessels series, was meant to be displayed outdoors. The bronze would eventually be transformed by the elements, “like a live painting that would be transformed in time.”
Khouri said the work was well-secured on its plinth. But it appears the thief had severed the bolts connecting the sculpture to the base.
“My concern is if they do this to public art, none of our artists are safe,” said Khouri, who has 31 public art installations around the world, including two in Vancouver’s Olympic Village. She also has another art installation, evocative of flying doves, on display in the atrium of B.C. Children’s Teck Acute Care Centre.
Khouri estimates the value of the work at $45,000. But it’s not something that can be sold to a scrapyard or easily melted down. She is hoping the art work would be returned or found.
Berry, too, is appealing for the return of the sculpture. The value of the piece is in the “priceless” experience that patients and families got from seeing the art on display.
“It has literally no value to anyone other than the hospital,” he said. “We would love to see it returned.”
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