Thanks to some sleuthing this week by the team at Sarasota Visual Art and Virginia Haley, president of the Sarasota Convention and Visitors Bureau, the mysterious 8-foot-tall “Legoman” that washed ashore on Siesta Key Public Beach early on the morning of Oct. 25 appears to be linked to a Dutch artist participating in the 2011 Chalk Festival.
Tim Jaeger, one of the Sarasota Visual Art collaborators, told the Pelican Press Oct. 28 that it was not that difficult to trace the Legoman to Dutch artist Leon Keer. The SVA website notes that Keer, who was born in Utrecht, The Netherlands, where a similar Legoman “mysteriously appeared on the Zandvoort beach” in 2007, “is an enthusiastic 3D street painter, and 2D artist.”
While Jaeger said the artist had refused to confirm the link, it seemed pretty clear to the Sarasota Visual Arts group.
Haley added another big clue Friday morning. “I had the evidence sitting on my desk,” she said.
Since the SCVB ended up working with the Chalk Festival so it could secure a $25,000 city of Sarasota grant that had been in jeopardy, Haley said the paperwork her office had received included the artists’ itineraries. Therefore, she said, she knew Keer already was in Sarasota.
Yet another clue regarding Keer’s link is the Chalk Festival image 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 3rd 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 will represent Planet Streetpainting, “a collaboration of street artists based in the Netherlands.” Keer is the group’s art director.
Tuesday, Joel Fried, a Siesta resident, found the Ego Leonard website with images similar to the Legoman (www.egoleonard.nl). That website links to the Street Art Gallery in The Netherlands, which, it says, gives exposure to the Street Art movement in The Netherlands.
Still, Haley pointed out, rumors running rampant on Facebook the night of Oct. 27 indicated that Keer might just be imitating the artist who created Ego Leonard.
“It’s the most bizarre thing, but as you can imagine, I am not complaining,” Haley said of the Legoman stunt, as the publicity has proven a boon for the community.
And although Sheriff Tom Knight indicated to the Sarasota County Commission during a special meeting Oct. 27 that he was trying to work out an arrangement with the SCVB to let Legoman make some public appearances, that wasn’t going to happen after all, Haley said. “If something happened to (Legoman), the sheriff’s liable,” she said.
Therefore, unless someone presents a legitimate claim to Legoman, he will have to remain in Sheriff’s Office custody for 90 days, according to state statute.
“He’s going to have to stay with his friend, Thomas,” Haley said with a laugh.