A CONTROVERSIAL million-pound public art installation has been sabotaged by metal thieves. Thousands of pounds worth of damage has been caused to the Blue Carpet artwork outside the Laing Art Gallery in Newcastle following the theft, which is the latest in a long line of stolen metal offences in the region.
The £1.6m concrete square design, which consists of 22,500 blue paving slabs, was defaced by thieves in a late-night operation to steal the bronze border plates that surround the art.
Officers say the offenders struck shortly after 11pm on Wednesday, October 5, before making off with what police would only confirm to be thousands of pounds worth of bronze.
It’s believed the offence is linked to an earlier theft of stolen bronze plates from the artwork on Sunday, September 25, when thieves stole a much smaller amount of the expensive plating.
Bosses at Newcastle City Council, which maintains the artwork, said they will be working with police in the coming days to review CCTV footage from a number of cameras in the area in a bid to identify the culprits.
Michael Murphy, the council’s director of technical services, said: “We are disappointed that people have damaged such an important piece of public art and we would urge anyone with information about this theft to come forward and contact the police.
“The Blue Carpet is enjoyed by visitors to the city centre and it is a shame that some people have such little respect for our community.”
Since its opening in 2001, the Blue Carpet has been the victim of vandalism and arson attacks and found itself in the middle of council funding arguments.
The public arts project originally used the wrong tiles, prompting many to question the £1.6m cost, shared between the Arts Lottery Fund, European Improvement Fund and Newcastle City Council.
Thomas Heatherwick is the artist behind the design, who won a competition to create a public square outside the Laing Art Gallery.
The nationally-renowned artist last night told The Journal: “I'm sad to hear that the Blue Carpet has been damaged.
“I hope the council will work with us to fix this as soon as possible.”
Police are appealing for any witnesses who saw the theft take place or who has information about the whereabouts of the bronze plating to get in touch.
Anyone with information on either incident can contact police on 03456 043043 ext 69191, or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.