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Amsterdam police sweep away art work

Early last Sunday morning, Amsterdam police removed the piece Stefan Sagmeister designed for Urban Play. It was one of the most celebrated installations of the event, which is part of the ExperimentaDesign biennale.

By Gabrielle Kennedy / 23-09-2008

When Urban Play’s curator Scott Burnham asked urban interventionist Sagmeister to create something new, the designer came up with a plan involving 250, 000 Euro cent coins.

A team of volunteers worked for seven days arranging the coins into the phrase: "Obsessions make my life worse and my work better".

The point of the Urban Play exhibition is for designers to create installations that allow for public intervention. Move, remove, add or alter, every individual is invited to act on their own personal reaction to the work. Nothing isn’t allowed.

So that two men started removing some coins on Sunday morning wasn’t a problem. The more alternations and play the public could invent, the more successful the experiment would be. What was a problem was the eventual outcome of a local resident’s call to the police reporting that “someone was stealing an artwork.”

The police arrived, blocked any further theft and after some confusion decided that the only way to truly secure the artwork was to completely remove it. City cleaners were called in, the coins, weighing 670 kilograms, were swept up and driven away.

“It was not removed by homeless people, and not completely messed up by the youth coming back from clubbing,” writes Sagmeister in his blog. “No, it was cleaned up by the authority, due to a big misunderstanding, to help and protect us and our work.”

Burnham who curated the exhibition for Droog Design has called the strange turn of events, "A bizarre instance of police efficiency."

The police admit something went wrong. "We had been told earlier by the organisers about the purpose of the Urban Play project," admitted a spokesman to local newspaper, Het Parool. "The officers on duty that day knew nothing about it though."

The police have made it clear that the organizers can have their coins back.

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