‘Thought to Have Merit’ – An English sculptor loses his head

Wall Street Opinion Journal Lionel Shriver June 20, 2006

LONDON–Once in a while a news story so speaks for itself that it threatens to put commentators out of a job.

The curators thought this was art.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 base. Judging the two components as different submissions, the Royal Academy had rejected his artwork proper–a finely wrought laughing head in jesmonite–and selected the plinth. “It says something about the state of visual arts today,” said Mr. Hensel. He didn’t say what. He didn’t need to.