A guitar secured in concrete was stolen from an outdoor art exhibit on Monday night. Jocelyn Purdie, curator for the Swamp Ward Window Project, said she woke Tuesday morning to discover the piece was gone from the gallery’s location on the front lawn of 448 Bagot St.
The replica of a Gibson Flying V was the only piece in Kingston artist Matt Rogalsky’s exhibit Flying V Down. Buried in the ground at Swamp Ward Window, its concrete base weighed approximately 25 kilograms.
Swamp Ward Window exhibits artwork on the lawn and porch of Purdie’s house. Purdie has mounted over 20 exhibits since opening the space to artists in 2001. Since then, there has only been one other case of theft — Kathleen Sellar’s Point in 2003.
Purdie said prior to the theft there were several attempts to move the guitar. She never saw the perpetrators, but noticed that there was damage done to the ground around the piece.
“You can tell because it was buried in the ground and the grass was covered up around it, it’s been exposed,” Purdie said. “That’s been off and on over the last three weeks or so but nobody’s ever actually been able to lift it out.”
Minimal security measures are in place on site.
“We did have signage up that said it was not a functioning guitar, but it’s kind of the nature of that sort of artwork,” Purdie said. “If you put it outside, you do run the risk of people coming along and for whatever reason damaging it or vandalizing it or, in this case, taking it.
“The venue is what it is and people recognize that when they put in an application to put a piece there.”
Rogalsky’s guitar was put closer to the sidewalk than most of the site’s past exhibits. The guitar was grounded about 3 feet from the sidewalk.
“The closer you get to the sidewalk, the easier it is for people to actually damage things,” Purdie said.
Rogalsky, who was notified of the theft Tuesday morning via email, speculated that the art object was stolen because it looked real. A Gibson Flying V is an iconic electric guitar. But the piece wasn’t a functioning guitar.
“It’s a tempting looking thing because it’s a real guitar, but I think if anyone stopped to really think about it, it’s not a playable instrument anymore,” he said.
To weatherproof the guitar, Rogalsky used chemicals to hold all the guitar’s controls and hardware in place and filled the cavities with silicone.
Rogalsky said he hasn’t notified the police because he doesn’t see it as a pressing issue. But he does plan on reporting it to the authorities this week.
“It’s attached to a big block of muddy cement, I think anyone who’s taken it might get tired of it really quickly,” Rogalsky said. “I think I stand a pretty good chance of getting it back, unless somebody completely trashes it or hides it forever.”
Rogalsky declined to disclose the material value of the piece, but said his selling price for the guitar would have been at least $1,000. The object was never put up for sale. Flying V Down at Swamp Ward Window was a study for a larger outdoor project, involving a couple dozen of the grounded guitars, which Rogalsky plans to organize over the next couple of years.
“One of the unfortunate things about losing it [is] I wanted to see how it weathered through the winter,” he said.
He has no plans to replace the Swamp Ward Window exhibit.
— with files from Brenna Owen
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