Artist Erick Mack’s large-scale sculpture Halter (2019) installed at the outdoor biennial exhibition Desert X, set in California’s Coachella Valley, was vandalized on Sunday night. The work, which is made of fabric donated by Italian fashion house Missoni, installed in a defunct gas station, has gone missing.
While the exact details remain unknown, a report filed with the Riverside Country Fire Department on Tuesday morning alludes to a ‘fire involved’. Speaking to the Desert Sun, a fellow Desert X artist said ‘The rope ends are all burnt’ and that there were ‘burn marks on the ground and on what little is left of the fabric.’
Mack wrote on Instagram on Tuesday evening: ‘I am overwhelmed by the news that my work “Halter” was vandalized, burned and stolen from its Desert X site yesterday,’ also adding that ‘the violence and hate enacted on this installation is astounding, I will not allow for this disregard to become a gesture that obstructs nor defines this work of art.’
Desert X’s artistic director Neville Wakefield told ARTnews that he did not know what had happened to the artworks and suggested that environmental factors could also have played a role: ‘The desert does reclaim works in many ways. Eric’s was an amazing piece but very fragile and susceptible to weather conditions. It was a dissertation on wind and fragility. It was always vulnerable.’
Previously at Desert X, Richard Prince’s installation Third Place suffered from theft in 2017. Earlier this year, Desert X pulled a show of Jenny Holzer’s light projections over concerns for the local bighorn sheep population. A strain of pneumonia had spread across sheep in the southern California mountains, and the combination of sick animals and light projections pushed the biennial to cancel the project.