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Large metal sculpture vandalized at Santa Fe gallery

SANTA FE – A sculpture by famed artist and designer Harry Bertoia, valued at just under $1 million, has been vandalized at the Peyton Wright Gallery in downtown Santa Fe.

“It was just installed a week ago Sunday,” said gallery owner John Schaefer. “It’s a high value piece. It was Mr. Bertoia’s most important work.”

“It’s just an absolutely mindless tragedy,” Schaefer said, “It was such a poetic and lovely piece. We all fail to understand what was in the mind of the perpetrator.”

The piece is called “Untitled (Monumental Sonambient)” and was commissioned by Standard Oil. It is composed of beryllium copper and naval brass and features 112 upright “tonal” or sound-making rods. The vandals bent many of the rods out of line.


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The Santa Fe sculpture, which has traveled to other locations in the United States, was installed in a grassy area outside the gallery’s East Palace Avenue location.

The Bertoia piece “survived in Chicago for three decades without any damage,” Schaefer said. It is up for sale.

The late artist was born in Italy and later studied design and jewelry-making in Detroit before establishing a workshop in Pennsylvania. Bertoia started to explore sound-making sculptures – like the vandalized piece – in 1960, and these tonal sculptures are the pieces “most associated with the artist,” says the Peyton Wright’s website.

“Some rods are capped with cylinders or drops of metal, which, by their weight, accentuate the swaying of the tonal rods,” the website said.

Bertoia was the artist commissioned for the Marshall University fountain to commemorate the loss of the West Virginia school’s football team, who all died in a 1970 plane crash.

Police say the vandalism occurred sometime between 10 p.m. Saturday and 8:15 a.m. Sunday. Anyone with information is asked to call police at 505-428-3710.

The sculpture damage comes in the wake of a recent incident in which someone cut the tail off the popular burro sculpture at Burro Alley in downtown Santa Fe.