Turner prize-winner's work stolen from Christie's
The artist fears it may have been taken for the scrap value of its metal, which he estimates to be around £250,000. "I don't think this is an art theft," Gordon said. "I'm pretty sure it has been melted down."
Gordon, who won the Turner prize in 1999 and whose art is owned by museums including the Tate and New York's Museum of Modern Art, is angry at the behaviour of the auction house.
He said Christie's only told him about the disappearance of the sculpture after he had spoken about the theft elsewhere. Gordon, who owns the work, said: "It is like someone borrowing your car, and then you finding out from a neighbour that it has been crashed," he said. "It looks like I am the last person in the chain to know."
Gordon said he had first heard of the theft second-hand, from a curator, last week; a Christie's representative contacted him on the morning of 29 November, 16 days after the crime was reported to the police.
Scotland Yard confirmed it was "investigating the alleged theft of a piece of artwork from a secure warehouse in the King Street area of Westminster. The incident was first reported to police on 12 November".
A Christies's spokesman said: "This matter is under investigation and we are in contact with all parties involved. We cannot comment further." A source at the auction house said Gordon's gallery had been informed right away, and that a Christie's representative had attempted to contact the artist on 28 November.
The theft from Christie's storage facility – which claims on its website "world-class security, management and expertise" – is likely to cause significant reputational damage for the auction house. A spokesman declined to comment on arrangements at the storage facility, citing the need to keep security measures confidential. A source said: "Given the sheer volume of works of art that come in, this as an extraordinarily rare thing to happen."
The artwork, made in 2007, is called The Left Hand and the Right Hand Have Abandoned One Another. It is normally kept at Gordon's Paris gallery, Yvon Lambert. The sculpture was shown this summer at an exhibition of contemporary sculpture at Waddeston Manor, the Buckinghamshire seat of the Rothschild family now in the care of the National Trust. The work was available for private sale through Christie's, which organised the exhibition.
After the exhibition closed on 28 October, the sculpture was returned to the Christie's storage facility in London for safekeeping. According to Gordon, documentation was signed showing the sculpture had been safely received; and, following standard practice in the artworld, a condition report was completed.
But earlier this month, according to Gordon, "apparently an employee randomly picked up the box it was in – yes, the phrase 'randomly picked up' is the phrase I have heard – and discovered it was a bit light". The crate was opened and the artwork discovered to be missing.
"I had a call last Thursday [22 November] from the curator who had run the exhibition at Waddeston," said Gordon. "But I only heard from Christie's directly this morning [29 November], although I understand the police are involved. Apart from the fact it's outrageous that something might get stolen from Christie's, I still own the work and I am the creator of the work. There's something going on here about value and the way the artist is treated in all of this."
Gordon believes his gallery was told of the theft only when the sculpture was due to be taken out of the storage facility to be transported to Tel Aviv for an exhibition in January.
Curator Katrina Brown, an expert on Gordon's work, said the piece occupies a significant place in the artist's oeuvre. The hand motif, she said, has been an important part of Gordon's work since the 1990s. For example, Feature Film (1999) was a film of the conductor James Conlon conducting Bernard Herrmann's score of Hitchcock's Vertigo, "which focused on Conlon's hands as conveyers of emotion", she said. A precursor to the work in gold, Fragile Hands Collapse Under Pressure (1999), was a wax cast of the artist's hand. It was exhibited in 1999 at Sir John Soane's Museum in London.
Gordon, who was born in Glasgow and is based in Berlin, is best known for his work in film, notably his 24-Psycho, an installation in which the Hitchcock film was slowed down so it took 24 hours to run; and Zidane: A 21st-century Portrait, which followed the footballer Zinedine Zidane during a football match. He won the Turner prize in 1999. "He is best known for his film work and hardly ever makes objects," said Brown. "When he does, they tend to be pretty potent."