'I am not a monster. I am an artist,' says body parts man

The notorious sculptor breaks his silence
Click to follow
The Independent Online
Sculptor Anthony-Noel Kelly, who is being investigated by police over allegations of thefts of parts of dismembered human corpses, has broken his silence to defend his work as an artist.

Kelly, a sculpture tutor at the Prince of Wales Institute of Architecture, was arrested by police following the discovery of parts of up to 30 people at his south-west London studio and his family's Kent country seat. The inquiry began after the Government Inspector of Anatomy read about Kelly's work in The Independent on Sunday in January prior to his exhibiting a silver-coated plaster head at the Contemporary Art Fair.

Since his arrest Kelly has refused to comment about the inquiry, until now. "They are trying to make out I am a monster but I am not," he told me on Friday. "There has been so much rubbish written about me in the last few days. Claims that I am into making money out of the dead. I am not. I have never made money from this. This is about art."

Kelly, a former abattoir worker and butcher, admitted previously to The Independent on Sunday that he had smuggled body parts into his Clapham studio and used them to make plaster casts. The silver-coated cast of the old man, with part of the brain cut away, carried a price tag of pounds 4,500 but did not sell. At the time he confessed: "I'm a little bit worried about the old man in case someone recognises him."

Now Kelly has little left of his work. Much of it has been confiscated by the police as part of their inquiry. "I've still got the horses' legs," he said, referring to his equine casts, coated in gold leaf and hanging in his living room. "They're allowed because they're not human."

The use of corpses is strictly controlled by the Anatomy Act of 1994 which makes it a criminal offence to use body parts without consent. Licences are granted by the Department of Health for those using cadavers for medical research and training.

Since the Inspector of Anatomy, Laurence Martin, first learnt of Kelly's activities, a check of all corpses used for teaching at medical schools was ordered. Police were called in when a discrepancy was noticed in one medical school's records of the disposal of bodies donated for science. A second man, believed to be an employee of a medical school, was arrested on 7 April and is due to report to police again in four weeks time.

Kelly's studio was besieged by reporters last week as details of the police inquiry emerged. "I have hardly been out. I'm just taking each day as it comes, and I'm trying to co-operate with the police. They have their job to do," he said. "What is important for me is getting on with my work and my next projects."

The sculptor had always maintained that his aim is to challenge notions that health and life are the prerequisites of beauty. His gold and silver gilding, he feels, immortalises the dead.

"I have no qualms about doing this work," he said in January. "I would not want to hurt anyone." But yesterday he admitted the seriousness of his position. "I have to see the police again in the next few days. I expect to be charged."

Comments