A high-profile crime has struck Durango’s art world like a meteor.
At 4:33 p.m. Monday, police received a call, alleging that about an hour earlier, a group of five skinny juveniles – including three men and two women – removed a dinosaur head from the Arc of History.
The decapitators traveled in a gold Honda Pilot with a Colorado license plate that partially read “305.”
At least one of the male suspects who absconded with the dinosaur head wore a red plaid shirt, said Durango Police Department’s Lt. Ray Shupe.
The Arc of History – a controversial public artwork installed at the DoubleTree intersection by the city of Durango earlier this year – earned a new nickname, “Jurassic Arc,” when someone placed the dinosaur head atop its fossil-like rock structure last week.
Because the city didn’t sanction the addition of the dinosaur head, in a legal sense, the paleontological coronation probably amounted to the criminal desecration of public property.
Public reaction was swift and nearly unanimous.
On The Durango Herald website, one commentator said the sculpture “looks 100 percent better with a head on it.” Another suggested: “Every month change the head like next month put a Turkey Head.”
With the Arc of History now beheaded, it’s unclear whether Durangoans will mourn the extinction of its brief dinosaur age.
Police are investigating.
But Shupe said much depends on who the dinosaur head belongs to.
He said if the youths who guillotined the sculpture on Monday in fact owned the dinosaur head, the vandalism they’d committed in affixing the dinosaur head to the Arc of History would be “nullified.”
But, he said, if someone else crowned the Arc of History with the dinosaur head, that person might be guilty of vandalism, while the group of teen bandits might be guilty of malicious injury to property and possibly theft.
At Studio &, member artist Scott Dye, who analyzed photos of Arc of History bedecked with the dinosaur head, said the head didn’t look store-bought; Dye said, in fact, far from slapdash, whoever fabricated the dinosaur head showed a lot of technical sophistication and, given the way the dinosaur head related to Arc of History’s dimensions, a strong sense of proportion.
“Whoever made that has got some serious talent. It’s pretty clever,” he said.
Whatever befalls the pilfered dinosaur head, Dye said, its creator’s artistic achievement in co-opting the Arc of History isn’t likely to go the way of the dinosaurs.
“I wouldn’t be surprised if this set a precedent for other artists,” he said.
An earlier version of this story gave the wrong day for when the dinosaur head was removed.