Anish Kapoor has spoken of his "deep regret" over the disappearance of a sculpture that he created more than two decades ago.
Hole and Vessel was put in storage with Fine Arts Logistics in London in June 2004. Three months later its owner, Ofir Scheps, an art collector from Geneva, was told that the piece, made of wood and cement, had disappeared from the high-security warehouse where it was kept. He had only just acquired the piece and wanted Kapoor to restore it. Mr Scheps is now suing the storage company, claiming the lost piece was worth £500,000.
Fine Arts Logistics disputes the value of the work, which it puts at £46,500.
Kapoor said that he considered the work an "important piece". He said: "I deeply regret that it seems to have gone missing. It's an important work in terms of what I was up to then. I only made seven or eight works that year and it's a shame to lose one of them.
"Works have to go out in the world and have a life of their own and one is not in control of what happens to them. But inevitably, they are my babies and I want them to be shown in the right way," he said.
The artwork was originally sold to a veteran American art collector in Chicago soon after it was made in 1984. It was later auctioned and bought by an Israeli collector. Mr Scheps acquired it after it was returned to Britain.
Jonathan Hood, executive vice-chairman of Fine Art Logistics, said the piece disappeared during construction work at the warehouse and that it was an "inexplicable exception" to the company's "excellent" record for loss and damage.
"The only unusual factor was that during the period in which it occurred, we were having extensive construction work carried out at our next-door storage facility, ironically to further upgrade its security," he said.
Mr Hood confirmed that legal proceedings had begun shortly before Christmas, and his company was disputing the claim that the work was worth £500,000.
"The action is being defended. In it we accept with regret that the sculpture is missing and that if we had it, we would of course have returned it to its owner. We understand that the sculpture was imported to the United Kingdom for possible resale and that the VAT was deferred. Mr Scheps purchased it.
"We were instructed to store it pending a decision to send it for restoration or re-export. Its value had to be redeclared to Customs and Excise after transfer to our Customs-approved location, and during the period, the loss occurred.
"We were instructed to declare its value as £46,500, the same value declared on import. Mr Scheps is claiming that the sculpture is worth £500,000 which is more than 10 times the amount formally declared at the relevant time."
Mr Scheps' solicitor, Stephen Walker, said: "He [Anish Kapoor] had agreed to restore the piece for the owner. The sculpture is a big piece - 95cm by 162cm by 109cm. You wonder how it could have gone missing."
"We had a written opinion recently obtained from an acknowledged expert valuing this piece at £500,000."
Kapoor, who was born in Bombay in 1954, is one of the most influential sculptors of his generation. From 1973 to 1978 he attended Hornsey College of Art and then studied at Chelsea School of Art. He represented Britain at the Venice Biennale in 1990 and was awarded the Turner Prize in 1991. His work has been exhibited worldwide, including at the Tate Gallery in London and the Museum of Modern Art in New York, and is also in numerous private collections. He is perhaps best known for the Marsyas, his 155-metre-long stretch of rubbery fabric, which spanned the length of Tate Modern's Turbine Hall in 2002.Reuse content