Thursday, February 07, 2013

Of Cookie Monsters and Art

Theft has always been a risk for public art.
According to England’s Public Monuments and Sculpture Association, The rise of metal theft over the last few years, due to the increase in the cost for copper and other metals, has caused major concerns across all sectors of the arts, heritage and rail transport. The PMSA is a founder member of ARCH (Alliance to Reduce Crime against Heritage) and with others is developing new ideas to ensure the safety and protection of public art.
But, somehow, the recent pilfering of a sculpture in Hanover, Germany, doesn’t seem so serious.
On or around 1/3/ 2013, a 40 lb. gold-plated brass cookie was boosted from a 100 year old sign outside of the Bahlsen Company. It represented the flagship sweet, the Leibniz Kek, first baked in 1891, and named for the city’s famous mathematician. The cookie, noted for its 52 (no more, no fewer) “teeth” around the edge had been held on the sign by two male figures.
Then came the twist. Instead of disappearing into an international network of art collectors, the cookie became the center of a bizarre tale.
A few days after the heist, the newspaper received a ransom note in the form of a photo. It showed someone dressed as Sesame Street’s Cookie Monster holding a sign made of cut out letters. I have the cookie! And you want it,” the letter read, according to the Hannoversche Allgemeine Zeitung) newspaper. It then demanded that Bahlsen “give all the children (at a local children’s hospital) milk chocolate cookies on one day in February — and not dark chocolate … and a golden cookie for the children in the cancer ward. … signed, Cookie Monster.”
            According to another report, the Cookie Monster also demanded that the company donate $1400 to a local animal shelter. Although the company said that it wouldn't give into blackmail, it did agreed to distribute 52,000 packets of the sweets if the original sculpture was returned. Some skeptics speculated that the whole thing was a publicity stunt, though the company roundly denied the accusation.
            The hunt began for the precious cookie, but without results. Then, on 2/5/2013, two incidents happened that brought the episode to a happy ending.
            First, a newspaper received another photo from the monster, showing him with the cookie half in his mouth. But this one was much more encouraging. Instead of demanding more ransom, it said, (referring to Werner Michael Bahlsen, the head of Bahlsen , "Because Werni loves the biscuit as much as I do and now always cries and misses the biscuit so badly, I'm giving it back to him!!!"
            Then, the cookie itself appeared hanging by red ribbons from the heraldic horse of Lower Saxony where the city is located. The horse it was found on stands (or, rather, rears) outside of Leipniz University in Hanover. It was rescued by two forensic scientists who were hoisted by crane to top of the horse.  The company will, no doubt, either keep the cookie under guard  from here on in, tr wire it so that no similar incidents happen in the future.

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