Richard Serra Sculpture Reina Sofía

The sculpture by Richard Serra that disappeared in Reina Sofia Museum

The crazy story in which a 38-ton sculpture by Richard Serra ended up disappearing from the collection of the Reina Sofía Museum without anyone noticing.

In many of our publications we talk about events and anecdotes from centuries ago. On many occasions these facts become curiosities that evolve in the form of legends to remain in society as common knowledge. And history does not stop! In this post we talk about a disappearance from the 21st century that, we have no doubt, will become a legend for future Madrid residents, or more specifically, the visitors of the Reina Sofía museum thanks to a sculpture by Richard Serra.

At the beginning of 2006, the Reina Sofía Museum sent a note reporting the disappearance of a sculpture by Richard Serra called Equal Parallel/Guernica-Bengasi. What is unusual is that the sculpture in question consists of four solid blocks of Corten steel, 148.5 centimeters high and weighing a total of no more and no less than 38 tons. The art center had acquired them for its inauguration in 1986 for 450,000 marks (36 million pesetas with the market value of that time).

Richard Serra Sculpture Reina Sofía

The idea of Richard Serra (San Francisco, 1938), an American with Majorcan origins, was to play with the temporal parallels between the bombing of Guernica in April 1937, and that of the American aviation in the Libyan city of Benghazi in 1986, an event that occurred at the time of preparing the sculpture.


Richard Serra is one of the most recognized artists worldwide when it comes to experimenting with large volumes, proposing art that interacts in different spaces, monumentality, mass, and creating sinuous and extravagant figures in Corten steel, very much in the line of Oteiza or Chillida. If anyone knows the Guggenheim Museum in Bilbao, they surely remember its steel labyrinths in large plates. Human figures are not used, but rather abstract geometric shapes, in movement, with spaces and voids, thus seeking to transmit sensations. When entering there are people who experience anxiety or some concern.

Richard Serra Escultura Reina Sofía

After the inaugural exhibition and against the opinion of the artistic director, the Reina Sofía decided to acquire the work. After a few months it would end up in the warehouses of the Macarrón company, which rented warehouses in an industrial estate in Arganda del Rey, South Madrid. The company began to contract debts with the Treasury and Social Security, and in addition, Reina Sofía never managed to pay them for their services since… they had debts precisely with the Treasury and Social Security, for not receiving the payments that, for example, Reina Sofia owed them! When the company went bankrupt and ceased to exist, no one at the museum asked about the sculpture. The Social Security seized the warehouse and at the same time built its General Archive there. By then the work was no longer there. Let’s remember: 4 38-ton Corten steel blocks. And in October 2005 someone noticed. The businessman said that he had already warned them that he was going bankrupt and they had to take care of the sculpture so that it would not be abandoned.

Richard Serra Pannel Description

All possibilities have been considered. Melt it down and make a profit on the raw material? It does not compensate at all nor does it give benefits. What about a capricious art lover? Nothing is known about how or with what machinery all that weight and volume would be transported. Was it buried in the area under the current building? Nothing has been found. Had the author something to do with it? What we do know is that Serra got an agreement with the Reina Sofía to replicate the work, which can be seen in room 102 of the museum. And let’s be honest, it has original character.

All these events that we try to summarize here invite us to think about abstract art, authenticity, absurdity, bureaucracy and what art itself is. Are those four blocks art because they are in a museum or is this absurd story a masterpiece that will be still remembered in a couple of centuries? For more curiosities like this, do not hesitate to join one of our Free Tour Madrid .

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