Lars Vilks, “Nimis,” 1980 / fire

In November 2016, this large-scale outdoor sculpture was damaged by unidentified vandals in an apparent case of arson. “Nimis,” a 75-ton collection of towers built entirely out of driftwood and connected by a massive wooden labyrinthe, was deliberately built on a remote location, which contributed to the level of damage it sustained in the blaze: as the work cannot be accessed by fire trucks, only handheld fire extinguishers and seawater could be used to douse the flames; as a result, many of the work’s edifices—particularly the “Tower of the Winds”—were reduced to charred nails and scarps of burnt wood.

In a published statement, Ladonia’s Queen Caroyln said, “Nimis will be repaired, and grow to be even larger than before… rising like a Phoenix from the ashes.” 

For his part, Vilks suggested that the attack was “a rather brutal form of art critique.” He believed the fire was started by either those opposed to “Nimis” itself (it has been the subject of numerous legal battles, including efforts by local authorities and inhabitants to have the work removed) or those opposed to his controversial cartoon of the Prophet Muhammad from 2007. Still, he considered the damage part of the artwork: “I have my motto: ‘Everything is an advantage.’ You always have to find something optimistic, and art that’s subjected to violence always benefits from it. You have to comfort yourself with that.”

This attack on “Nimis” was the fourth in 15 years; it was first targeted by arsonists in 1985, when two-thirds of the structure was destroyed and gradually rebuilt. 

Christopher Schreck