Haymarket artwork mystery solved
Sculptures safely stored, dinged up a bit
THE MYSTERY OF the missing public artwork at Haymarket is solved: It was dug up by a contractor, but it’s now safely stored nearby and state officials plan to contact the artist to determine what should be done with it.
Mags Harries, the sculptor, was kept in the dark for more than a week after the public art was jackhammered out of the ground, and she was pleased to learn Friday that her sculptures weren’t trashed.
For years, the artwork titled Asaroton had been part of the streetscape in the area a couple blocks from City Hall that is host to a pushcart market for discounted fruit, vegetables, and fish on Fridays and Saturdays. The work consists of pieces of bronze sculptures in the shape of the detritus of the time and place – a piece of lettuce, the plastic rings of a six-pack, a comb. Harries said the work, which was first installed in 1976, was inspired by Roman mosaics depicting the scraps of food that would be tossed on the ground during a feast.
The installation had been removed in the early 1990s to make way for the Big Dig, and then a new version was installed in roughly the same location in 2006 once the highway tunnel project had been substantially completed. Harries has already made new sculptures for the third installation of the public artwork, which is being done with the support of a hotel developer constructing a six-story Canopy by Hilton on one of the last remaining parcels left over from the Big Dig.
“Normally if you have something on a job that’s of historical significance, there’s a lot more detail as far as handling them and everything. This was just a note to remove them and stack them,” said Bill Keaveney, general manager of the construction firm, who said he is now curious about the significance of the pieces. “We’ll keep them until told what to do with them.”
The crew used jackhammers and saws to pry the bronze pieces from the hardtop, and they are currently stored in buckets toward the back of a storage container cluttered with other stuff. The container is sitting on a sidewalk less than a block away from where the pieces were removed.
The work crew removed nearly all of the bronze sculptures in one spot on Hanover Street, but at the installation’s second location on Blackstone Street, the bronze pieces are still in the ground.
A couple of the dug-up pieces were “dinged up,” said Keaveney. “I think there was a couple that got twisted a little bit. You have to understand these were embedded in a hardscape product, so it’s not like you’re just taking them up with tweezers. We did the best we could.”
According to the hotel developer, the artwork was removed on September 26, and Keaveney said that timeline sounded pretty accurate, but he said the work took place over a number of days.
Earlier this week MassDOT acknowledged that a contractor had removed the artwork as part of the sidewalk upgrade, but officials wouldn’t say who had been hired to do the work or where the pieces wound up. MassDOT provided the name of the contractor on Thursday.
The disappearance of the artwork surprised the artist and dismayed passersby who appreciated the bronze sculptures of discarded food scraps and trash.
“It’s sad. It was a piece of history,” said Emily Robertson, who used to work in the area.“It’s not a place where you normally see artwork,” said Amanda Quinlan, who lives nearby in the North End. “It’s really disappointing.”
A spokesman for the state Department of Transportation said Harries will be contacted to determine what should be done with the artwork. “No one’s called me,” Harries said Friday. “They do have an obligation to contact me.”