Perhaps the artist Maggi Hambling should have heeded the advice of the apostle Matthew when he warned that it was foolish to build on sand.
Since erecting her steel sculpture Scallopon the beach next to the Suffolk town of Aldeburgh it has been the target of both local art critics and vandals.
In the latest attack - the eighth since the 12ft-high tribute to the composer Benjamin Britten was installed on the pebble beach in 2003 - the attacker was armed with a tin of white paint. Two police officers on patrol discovered the critique "tin can rubbish" and "move it" daubed over the £70,000 shell structures.
The attack, which took place between 4.30pm last Wednesday and 12.40pm last Thursday, has prompted Suffolk police to consider installing hidden cameras to try and catch the culprit. They have already used plain-clothes officers to keep watch at the beach, but the identity of the vandal remains a mystery.
Hambling, who is due to receive an award for excellence in public sculpture on 24 November for the work, said the accolade may have provoked the latest attack. She said: "I think it's appalling that people have nothing better to do than to cause work for the busy people from Suffolk Coastal District Council. Why should public money be wasted on something that's nothing but an act of conceited destruction? Perhaps it's a reaction to Scallop winning the award."
Hambling's four-ton steel sculpture has been the focus of anger since it was unveiled in November 2003. Some residents said it ruined the beach, others objected to a memorial to Britten because of his alleged paedophile tendencies and his decision, as a pacifist, to move to America for the early years of the Second World War. More than 800 people have signed a petition calling for it to be relocated. But supporters of the structure believe the sculpture blends in with the shingle beach and has become a popular tourist attraction.
A spokeswoman for Suffolk police said: "We believe that someone local knows something. We have had plain-clothed and uniformed patrols at the site. We have also looked at other surveillance options."
A BBC website asking for opinions on the work of art received mainly positive responses. One e-mail read: "We had heard of it before visiting, but had not planned on our children loving it so much. We visited it three times in a weekend at their insistence."
But not all comments were complimentary. Another read: "It is a fine way to ruin what was a beautiful stretch of unspoilt beach. It should be sited about three miles further east."
By Karl Mansfield
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