Fished off: pricey Hackney sculptures go missing — replacement could cost thousands

Photograph from "Kate Malone: A book of pots" (pub: A and C Black)
Photograph from “Kate Malone: A book of pots” (pub: A and C Black)

* UPDATE: press this link

ONE OF Hackney’s most beautiful public artworks has been ruined by thieves and vandals — and it would cost thousands to replace.

One part of Kate Malone’s four-section ceramic fish sculpture has been stolen and another is said to be in storage. Two pieces, one of them badly cracked, are left in the pond, in the northeast of the borough, where they were installed by the Lee Valley Regional Park Authority (LVRPA), which commissioned the work.

Originally, the bright-coloured heads and tails poked intriguingly above the water like giant carp gasping for air. Now the pond has dried up and the remains look like fish floundering on the grass.

When Loving Dalston first contacted the authority, it had not told the internationally renowned potter about the damage. Neither did it explain, more than a year since the theft was noticed, why the insurance claim had not been settled.

The authority told this website: “Kate’s Rise and Shine Magic Fish is an outstanding example of public art that adds great visual interest to the Middlesex Filter Beds.”

The filter beds became a wildlife pond in the 1970s as new water-filtration methods made the Victorian system obsolete.

The authority continued: “We were absolutely devastated when in early 2012 we discovered that one of the fish had been stolen, and we reported the theft to the police.

“Later that year, thieves stole the generator for the pumps, leading to the water level dropping, which is when we noticed the damage to one of the fish. We have safely stored one fish off site as it has begun to come off its mount and two remain in the filter beds.”

The pond is now dry.

Malone said she noticed that her sculptures were not all in place when she visited the filter beds late last year and had met a park warden, who asked her whether the pieces could be remade.

She told Loving Dalston: “I’d be happy to remake them at not quite the price of before, but not at my usual art-dealer price.

“I do not know if they have been removed or stolen… it would be good to know. They were made for the community there and I have had many letters of appreciation.”

To remake the four fish could cost £80,000. Dealer commission would push that figure to at least £100,000. Collectors from around the world pay up to £14,000 for one of her large pots.

Floundering: one artwork almost survived the attempt of the villain(s) to remove it

When Loving Dalston told Malone that the authority had notified police in March last year that one piece had been stolen, she said: “They [the authority] should have retrieved them all after the theft.”

The artwork was “a brave commission, given the solitary position”. That was an issue when she made the pieces — for example, she had to guarantee them against frost — and she was “surprised that they had lasted 22 years”.

The authority commented to Loving Dalston: “We are very pleased that they [the fish] have remained largely intact for more than 20 years, which can partly be attributed to the patrols by our park rangers and security guards but also to the fondness that the local community attach to the fish.” It would consider what action to take.

A short time later the authority apparently changed its mind about pursuing the insurance claim, saying it would instead use its contingency fund and discuss with the artist the possibility of a replacement.

The authority manages the 42km-long (26 mile) Lee Valley Regional Park for Hackney, Waltham Forest and other councils whose borders are crossed by the park. Since changes at the southern end for the Olympics, the LVRPA has come under sustained criticism by environmental campaigners for its stewardship of Leyton marshes.

David Altheer 310513

* The Metropolitan Police ask anyone with information about the theft to phone 101. Emboldened underscored words in most cases indicate a hyperlink, a reader service rare among websites. If a link does not work, it is probably because the site to which the URL refers has not been maintained.

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