Provocative sculpture prompts police to break into London gallery

Two police officers forced entry into a Soho gallery after reports of an unconscious woman inside had “not been moving for the last two hours,” only to realise it was in fact an art installation made of packing tape and foam filler.

The work is to provoke and it’s definitely achieving that,” said Hannah Blakemore, an employee at the Laz Emporium gallery. Blakemore had gone upstairs to make a cup of tea when she was stunned to discover the gallery door off its hinges and several bemused officers inspecting ‘Kristina’ – a sculpture slumped over a table with its head in a bowl of soup.

Just before 6pm on 25 November, London’s Metropolitan Police service dispatched officers to address “concerns for the welfare of a person at a locked business premises“. Police believed the victim had suffered a heart attack or overdosed before the misunderstanding was resolved.

Banksy’s former agent, Steve Lazarides, commissioned the lifelike sculpture from American artist Mark Jenkins in 2022 to give an “art sprinkle” to a table in his central London gallery. Jenkins based the £18,000 mannequin on Lazarides’ sister, Kristina, who had once passed out nose deep in her meal. The hauntingly realistic sculpture has long, blonde hair and a striking yellow hooded jacket.

I didn’t want to have a £20,000 table without something funny or distressing to complement it,” recalled Lazarides. “It’s there to make people smile or to horrify, to get a reaction and to grab people’s attention. People always stop and stare at the piece and it’s great because they linger and come into the shop.

This is not the first time emergency services have been called out to one of the artist’s works. Confused paramedics were also called back in October when ‘Kristina’ appeared at London’s art and design fair Decorex. Likewise, an eerie sculpture called “Under the Rainbow” in Sweden depicting a man face down in a canal prompted various calls to emergency services from unaware members of the public in 2008.

Jenkins is known for creating witty and provocative sculptural installations, where he uses the “street as a stage” to disorientate the viewer. His logic-defying work ranges from toast springing up from a sewer grate to a life-sized figure climbing a fire escape upside down.

‘Kristina’ was on show at the Laz Emporium gallery until 24 December 2022.

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