Robert Tiemann’s mural: Casualty of the air conditioning men. Asteriskos, R. I. P. I I. . and the symphony orchestra is more important than marijuana raids.” El Abrazo, official Hemisfair ’68 publication, November, 1966. San Antonio When San Antonio played host to the Hemisfair two years ago the city fathers spared naught in their efforts to make it a classy do. They up and commissioned some of the finest artists around to produce some groovy objets to be scattered about the grounds for the edification and delectation of the fair’s visitors. Among the more interesting results was a sculpture by Tony Smith named Asteriskos. The black steel arrangement of rectangular masses was 17 feet high and cost $35,000. It stood solidly between the arena and the convention center on the Hemisfair grounds, suffering only an occasional indignity. At one point someone pasted a poster announcing a Coming Attraction on it. Then one day Asteriskos disappeared. Big mystery. How does a 17-by-14-foot, steel sculpture get lost? It turned out that the sculpture wasn’t lost at all. “We just didn’t know it was sculpture,” said the assistant director of the Department of Public Works when the dismembered remains of Asteriskos were discovered on view at the Las Mortis Street junk yard. “It’s just one of those things,” said Mr. Key, the man in charge of the junkyard. “As far as we’re concerned, the whole thing has been real regrettable and embarassing. We’ve got no use for the thing.” But someone on the junk yard crew is an inverse Neo-Dadaist. You remember how the early Dadaists used to take utilitarian objects, like urinals, and make them into sculpture? Well this guy took a part of the sculpture and made it into a utilitarian object: to wit, an ice chest. Asteriskos was not the first Hemisfair sculpture to grace the Las Moras Street exhibition. Barford, an arrangement of painted steel bars by British sculptor Anthony Caro, had disappeared earlier. It disappeared, in fact, shortly after John H. White, first vice-president of Hemisfair, passed the precariously-balanced arrangement with a group of VIP’s in tow and remarked that the thing ought to be junked. Perhaps White was engaging in some hearty provincial levity. In any case, Hemisfair workmen did seem to hear and to heed and Barford’s remnants are reportedly buried in the junkyard. Clement Greenberg, who lent Barford to the Hemisfair, was not mollified by the city’s offer of a reproduction. According to the city’s newspapers, he received a monetary settlement, amount undisclosed. The donors of Asteriskos presented a more complex problem. The donors were Mr. and Mrs. Henry Catto, Jr., who gave the sculpture to the city in memory of her father, the late Gov. William P. Hobby. The liaison man in the case was Gilbert Denman, Jr., a discreet attorney who was the organizer of the sculpture exhibition for the fair and who is on the board of the Witte Museum. The nasty fate of Asteriskos was publicly revealed by John P. Leeper, director of the McNay Art Institute, the Witte’s rival. Leeper, with great drama and indignation, announced that had Asteriskos been at the McNay, rather than the Witte, it would have been “cherished.” Lo, it is now theirs to cherish, such as it is. Within a week of Leeper’s histrionic performance, the Cattos announced that they wished to save the taxpayers the cost of restoring Asteriskos and would therefore pay for it themselves provided the sculpture be placed on permanent loan at the McNay. Estimated cost of restoration is $7,000. Catto, who is currently ambassador to the Organization of American States, is being touted in some quarters as a possible candidate for mayor. For his gesture he gets a tax write-off, free publicity, and lots of good will. The manic MAC truck driver is still on the loose. The truck driver theory has been advanced both by Mayor W. W. McAllister and by Denman. They speculate that Asteriskos was hit by a truck before it was carted away. It may have been the same truck driver who smashed into the 1918 cupola of an Orthodox synogogue which was also demolished while on display at the fair. And it could have been the mad MAC man who is responsible for the disappearance of yet another San Antonio landmark, the Heinrich House. Any city that can lose a 17-foot, steel sculpture, can’t be daunted by the disappearance of a house. It was owned by the San Antonio Conservation Society and was preserved for and used during Hemisfair. No one knows where it is now. The truck driver, however, was not responsible for the mutilation of a mural by Robert Teimann, a San Antonio artist and professor at Trinity University. The mural, which covers the backs of several Hemisfair buildings, was ignominiously stabbed with air conditioning vents and one unidentified hole that has hairy gunk hanging out of it. Another sculpture called Solar Disks by the late Charles Williams of Fort Worth was seriously damaged by workmen as they took it down to return it to the artist’s widow. And a wood sculpture by Joseph Konzal bit the dust. It’s being redone in metal. Then, of course, there are the fountains. Or there were the fountains. Three Hemisfair fountains were extensively damaged cause unknown and a fourth is partially broken, faded, and without water. One San Antonian, who is both knowledgeable about and loving toward art, finds the situation more tragic than funny. “It might be well to recognize that there is a certain hazard for art in San Antonio,” October 16, 1970 3
You May Also Like
The Texas Rangers are tasked with investigating corruption and crimes by public officials. Those officials are rarely held accountable.