‘Like an art heist’: Part of 10-foot long thumbtack sculpture stolen in North Carolina

HICKORY, N.C. (WJZY) — A North Carolina community has been left wondering how someone made off with portions of a 10-foot-long red thumbtack sculpture.

The piece, created by local artist Hunter Speagle, was reported missing from art gallery ATAC in Hickory, northwest of Charlotte, Wednesday morning.

“It was like a real-life art heist,” he explained to NewsNation’s WJZY.

Speagle owns ATAC, where the red thumbtack has been on display for years, but it had garnered attention throughout the art world for years prior.

He made the thumbtack in his garage in Savannah, Georgia, in 2002 out of “foam, acrylic, and cardboard.”

Hunter Speagle with the remaining portion of the stolen sculpture. (WJZY)

Though it was a simple design, to him, it carried a deeper meaning.

“I had a theory about what the thumbtack meant and how it meant in the art world,” he explained. “I saw myself as a tack being able to display artwork that people can see. The saying used to be that the art world is a bulletin board and I am a tack.”

The piece was displayed in art galleries in New York, Atlanta, Boston, and even Charlotte before it ended up in Hickory.

It picked up a few new stories along the way with small dents and dimples in its hull.

Five days before it went missing, the piece was placed outside the ATAC gallery to make room for other artists’ work.

When Speagle showed up to work Wednesday morning, he found most of the thumbtack was gone, with a third of the piece being left in a parking lot a few feet from his front door.

“I’m just curious as to where the other pieces went. You know? It being a small town, a lot of the time, these things just get washed over.”

Neighboring businesses have security cameras, but Hickory Police have not said if they were able to find evidence of who or how it was moved.

Speagle said he does not plan to rebuild the art piece, but rather allow it to take on a new meaning.

“Carry on a new story about the symbolic meaning like – theft within art, how it’s used, how art is misappropriated.”


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