Early on Tuesday morning, officials rushed to save artist Andy Goldsworthy’s famed environmental artwork Spire from a series of brush fires raging in San Francisco’s Presidio National Park. Though salvaged from destruction, the beloved sculpture has been significantly charred in what investigators now believe was an act of arson.
At least four towering fires, likely sparked by embers blowing from Spire, were all contained by the fire department by 10 a.m. In a statement to the San Francisco Chronicle, the Presidio Trust said, “We are devastated that this invaluable piece of art has been damaged, and we are still in the process of determining if it can be saved.” SFFD Battalion Chief Glenn Kircher told the Chronicle that the structure of Spire remains sound.
Spire is one of four site-specific pieces Goldsworthy installed in the national park. The British artists created the 100-foot-tall sculpture in 2008 from 37 Monterey cypress trunks from felled trees in Presidio. They were then fastened together and planted. Around the sculpture’s 15-foot-wide base young cypress grew.
In a statement to ARTnews, Goldsworthy said, “The burning of Spire goes too deep for my own words. Besides, Spire has always spoken for itself and will perhaps now speak with an even greater eloquence after what has happened. If anything, its epitaph will be better written in the memories, thoughts and words of those who have lived with it over the past twelve years.”
He added, “Like many things happening at this time, the burning of Spire doesn’t make any sense. What I do know is that art doesn’t give up. Spire is still standing and is still very beautiful. It is now more rooted in the place than ever before. It will always stand there—even when it has been removed.”
The 63-year-old artist is known for his site-specific installations often constructed from natural materials that are liable to the passage of time. Another work installed in the park, Wood Line, is comprised of fallen tree trunks arranged into a gentle downhill trail. Presidio’s collection of Goldsworthy installations—which also include Tree Fall and Earth Wall—are a major tourism draw within the region.