Royal Academy rejects sculpture but loves plinth

When the artist David Hensel was told that his sculpture of a laughing face had been selected for the Royal Academy's Summer Exhibition, he was thrilled. But his delight turned to puzzlement when he searched the show high and low before discovering that only its plinth was on display.

Somewhere during the selection process - when Royal Academicians choose from among nearly 10,000 works submitted for inclusion by members of the public - the head and the base were separated. And it emerged yesterday that the selectors had judged each on its merits. They admired the plinth enormously but rejected the head.

A new meeting was being called last night to scrutinise the two pieces together as Hensel intended and consider whether the work, One Day Closer to Paradise, should be reunited.

The artist himself, however, is rather intrigued by the consequences of the error. Hensel, 61, of East Grinstead, West Sussex, said: "As someone who has spent my entire life trying to come up with a new definition of art every day so that I know whether I'm an artist or not, this is very interesting. Of course I would have liked to have my intended sculpture on show. But what I think now is I'm very amused - I never got cross.

"The great big laughing head is a kind of image of what one might feel about the idea of going to paradise. From one angle it's complete laughter and from another the face looks completely horrified. That's why I wanted it to be loose. The base is made from mortuary slab and the little piece of wood that was meant to keep the head in place looks like bone. So the fact that the head has disappeared is entirely in keeping. Maybe it achieved transcendence. I think it's totally delightful."

The problem is of the variety that is supposed to be resolved at the so-called varnishing day on the Monday before the show opened. But Hensel was unable to go to that event because he was teaching. So it was only when he attended a preview at the end of last week that he realised what had happened.

"I went around the whole thing and by the time I got to the end I was feeling a bit depressed because actually there's a lot of stuff in there that isn't as good as it could be," he said. "And then right at the end, after going round everywhere, I saw the base. I went straight away to speak to somebody at the desk."

A Royal Academy spokeswoman said: "Given their separate submission, the two parts were judged independently. The head was rejected. The base was thought to have merit and accepted; it is currently on display. The head has been safely stored."

The Royal Academy Summer Exhibition, which includes 1,300 works by Royal Academicians and members of the public, is open until 20 August.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
SPONSORED FEATURES
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Project and Quality Manager

£28000 - £32000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This company is an independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Trainee Sales Executive - OTE £20,625

£14625 - £20625 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This role is for an enthusiasti...

Guru Careers: Financial Controller

£45 - £55k DOE: Guru Careers: A Financial Controller is required to join a suc...

Recruitment Genius: Fertility Nurse

Negotiable: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity to join the ho...

Day In a Page

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkey's conflict with Kurdish guerrillas in Iraq can benefit Isis in Syria

Turkish President Erdogan could benefit politically from the targeting of the PKK, says Patrick Cockburn
Yvette Cooper: Our choice is years of Tory rule under Jeremy Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Our choice is years of Tory rule under Corbyn or a return to a Labour government

Yvette Cooper urged Labour members to 'get serious' about the next general election rather than become 'a protest movement'
Singapore's domestic workers routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals

Singapore's hidden secret of domestic worker abuse

David Cameron was shown the country's shiniest veneer on his tour. What he didn't see was the army of foreign women who are routinely exploited and often abused in the service of rich nationals
Showdown by Shirley Jackson: A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic

Showdown, by Shirley Jackson

A previously unpublished short story from the queen of American Gothic
10 best DSLRs

Be sharp! 10 best DSLRs

Up your photography game with a versatile, powerful machine
Solved after 200 years: the mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army

Solved after 200 years

The mysterious deaths of 3,000 soldiers from Napoleon's army
Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise

Robert Fisk on the Turkey conflict

Every regional power has betrayed the Kurds so Turkish bombing is no surprise
Investigation into wreck of unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden

Sunken sub

Investigation underway into wreck of an unidentified submarine found off the coast of Sweden
Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes

Age of the selfie

Instagram and Facebook have 'totally changed' the way people buy clothes
Not so square: How BBC's Bloomsbury saga is sexing up the period drama

Not so square

How Virginia Woolf saga is sexing up the BBC period drama
Rio Olympics 2016: The seven teenagers still carrying a torch for our Games hopes

Still carrying the torch

The seven teenagers given our Olympic hopes
The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis, but history suggests otherwise

The West likes to think that 'civilisation' will defeat Isis...

...but history suggests otherwise
The bald truth: How one author's thinning hair made him a Wayne Rooney sympathiser

The bald truth

How thinning hair made me a Wayne Rooney sympathiser
Froome wins second Tour de France after triumphant ride into Paris with Team Sky

Tour de France 2015

Froome rides into Paris to win historic second Tour
Fifteen years ago, Concorde crashed, and a dream died. Today, the desire to travel faster than the speed of sound is growing once again

A new beginning for supersonic flight?

Concorde's successors are in the works 15 years on from the Paris crash