Several public artworks by Romanian sculptor Ioan Bolborea are under scrutiny after a widely mocked Bucharest statue is alleged to have been cast with "inferior-quality materials." The artist says the case is revenge for a legal dispute.
This Bucharest statue, depicting Roman Emperor Trajan holding a stiff-legged she-wolf, has been controversial since it was first unveiled in 2012. The monument, which is based on a model by the late sculptor Vasile Gorduz, was widely panned as "grotesque," though one journalist suggested the criticism stemmed from "stubborn conservatism" in Romania.
In 2017 the tail of the monument's wolf was broken off. It is unknown whether the tail break was deliberate.
While repairs were under way on the appendage, it was reportedly discovered that the wolf was made from brass. Bucharest authorities say Ioan Bolborea, the artist tasked with casting the monument, was contracted to use bronze.
On February 12, Romanian police took Bolborea in for questioning over "deception" for public art the 65-year old was paid millions of dollars to complete from 2005-16. The authorities claim several of Bolborea's works were made "from inferior-quality materials."
Several other Bucharest monuments (shown below) are now reportedly under investigation for the materials used in their creation.
Bolborea has told Romanian media the authorities "are trying to pin all sorts of crap on me" because of a legal dispute over a cancelled monument to Romania's 1918 unification. The artist says that "brass gives a beautiful patina...the costs are the same, sometimes brass is even more expensive" than bronze.
A spokesman from a large metals retailer in Britain told RFE/RL that although bronze was generally more expensive than brass, its pricing was "very volatile" and brass can indeed be more expensive depending on the grades of the two "red metals."
The British metals expert said that "unless I have the exact materials in front of me, it's hard to give a price estimate." He added that bronze tends to be harder and more durable, but brass, with its dull-golden sheen, "is more aesthetic."
The case has sparked lively debate on Romanian social media, with prominent politician Ana Birchall calling Bolborea a "charlatan." Others have questioned how such large sums of money were given for the controversial public art in the first place.