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SF artist Barry McGee's work stolen again 

Wednesday, Jan 9 2008
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If anyone sees a bunch of large ceramic panels representing the spirit of the Outer Sunset, please notify Muni spokesman Alan Siegel. He'd really like them back.

The panels, commissioned by Muni, were created by San Francisco artist Barry McGee and installed on the wheelchair-access ramps at above-ground N-Judah stops in the mid-'90s. But at some point — Siegel isn't sure when — the panels disappeared.

"I'm a bit nonplussed," he admitted. "I've been trying over the last few weeks to check and see if we took them down — maybe they'd been graffitied and needed to be cleaned or repaired — but that wasn't the case. I'm hoping that someone will find and return them."

Um, yeah. Siegel may be nonplussed, but McGee has been through this before. He has something of an area record for pieces stolen, including a 64-foot-wide, 8-foot-high mural on Howard in 1999.

"I don't know what's going on," he told SF Weekly. "My artwork gets stolen all the time; it's ridiculous." Just this week, in fact, he is re-creating six pieces that were stolen from a gallery in New York City called Deitech Projects. "Galleries are easier to steal from than the Apple Store, maybe," he suggested. "I don't know how somebody would have gotten the pieces off the Muni line, though — I thought they were on there pretty good."

Told that in at least one instance at Judah and Sunset, the thieves cut the metal frame out of the ramp and then removed the tile, McGee was impressed. "Really? That's very ambitious. I wish them luck."

There are, in other words, no hard feelings. In fact, McGee suggested, maybe it was time to replace the tiles anyway. He doesn't exactly have fond memories of the commission.

"I sent out 800 questionnaires to houses along the N line, just trying to get a feel for the community's support or idea of any direction they'd like the project to include — and I got two back," he recalled. "And those were complaints that the new handicapped-accessible ramps being installed were taking away parking spaces. I didn't get any real direction from that.

"It wasn't an extraordinary piece," he concluded. "It's probably a good thing it's starting to get stolen. It's probably time for someone else to take over that line."

About The Author

Benjamin Wachs

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