The cryptic metal sculpture was discovered in Utah’s Red Rock Desert last month, immediately prompting speculation as to its origin. Backpackers and amateur sleuths flocked to the remote area to see the monolith for themselves, but just a week after its discovery, on Friday night, it disappeared.
However, in an Instagram post on Tuesday, drone photographer Ross Bernards explained what happened to the pillar. After shooting some photos at the site, Bernards said that four men approached the monolith, rocked it back and forth until it came loose, broke it apart and removed it in a wheelbarrow.
“You better have got your pictures,” one of them said, while another chimed in: “This is why you don’t leave trash in the desert.” Immediately before they left the scene, one looked back and said “Leave no trace.”
Shortly afterwards, a video of the theft was posted to TikTok, with the thieves’ faces blurred.
We have a video of the group wheeling the monolith away. This guy’s TikTok bio says “Welcome to the spicy side of Utah.” Indeed, sir. pic.twitter.com/4QhHK58M0z
— Ari🎄 (@AriWRees) December 1, 2020
“They were right to take it out,” Bernards wrote, describing how he and his friends saw “at least 70 different cars” in the area the following morning, with hikers approaching the site of the sculpture from every direction, “permanently altering the untouched landscape.”
“Mother Nature is an artist,” he said. “It’s best to leave the art in the wild to her.”
While the mystery of the Utah monolith may be solved, it’s not the only such sculpture to vanish in recent days. A near-identical structure appeared atop a hill in Romania just days after the Utah monument was discovered, only to disappear in less than a week. The Romanian authorities didn’t figure out in time who installed the pillar, but said it had been erected without approval.
German police also opened an investigation last weekend after a famous phallus-shaped statue on the slopes of Bavaria’s Grunten Mountain disappeared, with only a stump of the wooden willy left behind.
Whoever stole the statue faced an altogether more difficult task than the environmentally conscious crew in Utah. It weighed 200kg and was located 1,738 meters up.
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