Will Tracey Emin’s Sparrow Fly Again?
The Roman Standard by Tracey Emin
Did you know that a bronze sparrow can fly? Not really-- but in the hands of a thief a little bronze bird can easily leave her perch. Tracey Emin’s ‘The Roman Standard’-- the first piece of public art created by the artist-- has recently been the target of thieves. The piece, which is located outside the Oratory near the Anglican Cathedral in Liverpool, was unveiled three years ago. Emin was commissioned by the BBC to create the piece for the art05 festival. Emin has stated that the sculpture is a symbol of "hope, faith and spirituality" and that her choice of the sparrow represents the “angels of this earth” and “freedom“. At the time she went on to say, "My Roman Standard represents strength but also femininity. Most public sculptures are a symbol of power which I find oppressive and dark." Since that time the bronze sparrow has been relatively safe perched upon a bronze pole. However, in June of 2008 the bird vanished-- for the first time.
In June of this year the £60,000 bronze sparrow went missing for two weeks-- though there has been some discrepancies as to the time-line of events based on what I‘ve read-- leaving a lonely bronze pole and frantic cathedral staff behind. The local authorities had difficulties with their investigation during the first ‘flight’ of Emin’s sparrow because the ownership of the piece had been disputed. The cathedral did not acknowledge ownership and a BBC spokeswoman stated, “The BBC commissioned the sculpture but does not own it and therefore does not have duty of care for its maintenance or welfare. This is covered by White Cube gallery and the artist.” to which a White Cube spokeswoman replied, "The BBC commissioned the piece they are the best people to discuss this with." Apparently the authorities were unable to gather details from the artist, Tracey Emin. There were doubts that the £60,000 bird would return to her perch and questions as to why the three possible owners were not taking a more active role in solving the puzzle.
However, the bird was recovered in early July after an anonymous caller informed BBC Radio where the small bronze bird had been placed. The piece was found on the grounds of the Oratory in an envelope marked "FAO Tracey Emin: URGENT!". A note attached to the sculpture read, "We are sorry - No harm meant. We would have returned it sooner but we were scared xxx."-- which means the thieves had returned to the scene of the crime unnoticed. Upon being retrieved the bronze bird was returned to her bronze perch. However, the bird did not rest for long.
The sparrow took ‘flight’ again this month. The September theft of Emin’s sparrow from her piece, ‘The Roman Standard’, marks the second time in a span of 3 months that the sculpture had been disrupted and the bronze bird stolen. However, this time Emin’s sparrow was returned within a few days by an individual who has yet to be named by authorities. The sculpture was handed over to police who in turn passed it on to BBC Radio Merseyside last Saturday. Will the bronze sparrow take ‘flight’ again? That is the £60,000 question.
Take care, Stay true,