Gormley statues spark suicide alerts

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The Independent US

In most cities, people look at Antony Gormley's celebrated work, stroke their chins, and gently wonder: "Is it art?" But New Yorkers don't have time for sober reflection. Instead, they panic, dial 911, and invite a squadron of noisy police cars to come and investigate what they believe to be an emergency in the making.

The British sculptor stands accused of bringing terror to the streets of Manhattan with his latest art installation, Event Horizon, which features 31 life-size human statues strategically placed around the Big Apple. Residents keep mistaking figures gazing majestically from rooftops for real people about to take a leap.

On Wednesday, police were called, for the umpteenth time, to the Empire State Building, where one of Gormley's cast-iron figures has been attached to a ledge several hundred feet off the ground. Locals, who know the site as a notorious suicide spot, feared they had what law-enforcement personnel call a "jumper" on their hands.

Police officers say that in the month since the statues were installed, their working days have been constantly interrupted by bogus emergency calls. They have to be taken seriously; a real person leapt to his death from the ledge where a statue was standing on the Empire State Building last month.

"It's a total pain in the ass," one officer told the New York Post. "It's also a waste of manpower. We're short of cops to begin with and we don't have enough spare people to waste answering calls of statues committing suicide."

Every report of a potential "leaper" takes several hours to investigate and record. "Why not put statues on the corners holding guns at night?" said another. "That would be fun artwork, wouldn't it?"

The Mayor of New York, Michael Bloomberg, defended the statues at his weekly press conference yesterday. Noting that Londoners managed to observe them without calling emergency services when the installation graced the British capital, he told reporters: "If you give this enough press, if your arts section really writes the story of this, then more people will know it's art ... including our Police Department."

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