Holocaust artist sets Four Rooms dealers' teeth on edge

Anthony Gross’s 1927 painting of Rue des Juifs, (Street of the Jews), Algeria, is on sale at Rutland’s Goldmark Gallery this month, for £3,000

Anthony Gross’s 1927 painting of Rue des Juifs, (Street of the Jews), Algeria, is on sale at Rutland’s Goldmark Gallery this month, for £3,000

A man who claimed that his sculpture of the entrance of Auschwitz was made from the gold teeth of Holocaust victims has walked away from £37,000, after being challenged by a Jewish art dealer to destroy the "tasteless" work.

Marco Evaristti told dealers on Wednesday night's episode of the Channel 4 series Four Rooms that the gold and diamond-encrusted sculpture of the concentration camp gates was made from Jewish victims' melted gold teeth, which he had purchased from an Austrian dealer.

The Chilean artist also claimed that some of the gold teeth had been left behind by his Jewish grandmother when she was deported to Auschwitz.

Three of the dealers declined even to make him an offer, asking why he had not donated the work to a museum. But Jeff Salmon, who has 40 years of experience in the art and antiques business, offered Mr Evaristti the value of the gold - £37,000 - in return for him stamping on it and "really making art".

The artist, who had previously claimed that he "wanted to show the agonies of human beings through the beauty" of the piece, said he would only do that for £220,000.

"Destroying it would have shown a far, far better view of his intentions," said Mr Salmon, who said he did not believe Mr Evaristti's story about the teeth.

He said a minor artist of this type would be unlikely to attract that kind of money for his work and criticised him for using "the shock tactics of the Holocaust" to raise his profile.

Mr Salmon said that, while art depicting the Holocaust was certainly acceptable, and a sculpture of Auschwitz made from any other materials would not be tasteless, the claims Mr Evaristti made about the teeth crossed the line.

"The whole thing was done as self-promotion, to make a name for himself," he said.

"The piece was not made to say 'lest we forget the Holocaust', it was made to say 'lest we forget he is an artist who can provoke'. It was a poor attempt at making shock art."

Mr Evaristti is known for his headline-making tactics. Previous stunts have included an exhibit where guests were invited to turn on blenders containing live goldfish, and a dinner where guests were served meatballs made from his own fat.

The Auschwitz work was previously exhibited in Berlin, but was removed after just two hours following a public outcry.

Last updated: 2:04pm, May 3 2012