From coast to coast and across Europe, it appears Legoman has drawn even more attention to the Key than the No. 1 beach ranking this year.
As I write this, many questions still remain, but thanks to the Sarasota Visual Art team and Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, it seemed pretty clear late last week that the 8-foot-tall Legoman that reportedly washed ashore on Siesta Key Public Beach early on the morning of Oct. 25 had been definitively linked to a Dutch artist participating in the 2011 Chalk Festival.
I use the word, “reportedly,” because I remain among the skeptics that the 100-pound fiberglass creation actually came ashore from the Gulf of Mexico. The first email with photos of Legoman went out just before 8:15 a.m. Oct. 25, from a person calling himself Jeff Hindman. In his photo, which was published by a number of local media, Legoman still was lying in the surf.
However, when I tried calling Hindman — at the phone number he provided in the email — I heard a standard message that his voice mailbox had not been set up. My attempts later in the week to call him and email him failed as well. Hmmmm.
By Oct. 27, the suspicion had grown that Legoman was linked to one of the Dutch master sandsculptors coming to Siesta Key for the Crystal Classic Nov. 10-14. To nail down that rumor, I called Brian Wigelsworth, Siesta’s own master sandsculptor, who came up with the idea of the Crystal Classic. “No,” Brian told me. “(Legoman is) actually linked to one of the Chalk Festival artists.” Nonetheless, Brian said, “It is a nice little boost for us, too.”
Brian referred me to Tim Jaeger, one of the Sarasota Visual Art collaborators, who also is known as one of the artists/organizers of the s/ART/q events. Tim told me Oct. 28 it had not been difficult to trace the Legoman to Dutch artist Leon Keer. Tim pointed me to the SVA website, which notes that Keer was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where a similar Legoman “mysteriously appeared on the Zandvoort beach” in 2007. The website added Keer “is an enthusiastic 3D street painter, and 2D artist.”
Keer had refused to confirm the link, but Tim said it seemed pretty clear to the Sarasota Visual Arts group.
In the meantime, I also had been able to reach Haley at the SCVB.
“I had the evidence sitting on my desk,” she said.
As the SCVB had partnered with the Chalk Festival so the festival could secure a $25,000 city of Sarasota grant that had been in jeopardy, Haley said the paperwork her office had received included information about the artists’ flights to Sarasota. Therefore, she said, she knew Keer already was in Sarasota when all of this was taking place.
Another obvious link with Keer was the design he submitted for the 2011 festival. It depicts the Terracotta Army, a collection of sculptures representing the armies of Qin Shi Huang, the first emperor of China. The third-century sculptures were discovered in 1974 by local farmers in China’s Lintong District. In Keer’s version, the images bear a distinct resemblance to the Legoman.
Keer also says in material he submitted to the Chalk Festival that his design would represent Planet Streetpainting, “a collaboration of street artists based in the Netherlands.” Keer is the group’s art director.
Oct. 25, Joel Fried, a Siesta resident who also saw Legoman on the beach that morning, did some sleuthing of his own and found the Ego Leonard website with images similar to the Legoman. That website includes links to the Street Art Gallery in The Netherlands, which, it says, gives exposure to the Street Art movement in The Netherlands.
Nonetheless, Haley told me, rumors ran rampant on Facebook the night of Oct. 27, indicating Keer might just be imitating the artist who created Legoman aka Ego Leonard.
“It’s the most bizarre thing, but as you can imagine, I am not complaining,” Haley said of the stunt. Since summer, Haley has been just absolutely thrilled with the tourist tax revenue adding up in Sarasota County as a result of that No. 1 beach ranking. The Legoman appearance truly adds icing to that cake.”
Although Sheriff Tom Knight told the Sarasota County Commission during a special meeting Oct. 27 he was trying to work out an arrangement with the SCVB to let Legoman make some public appearances, that could not happen after all, Haley said. “If something happened to (Legoman), the sheriff’s liable,” she said.