Derek Alan Modrok, a 49-year-old Florida resident, admitted to running his car into a tall, blue sculpture of a rabbit titled Thunderbunny by American artist Hunt Slonem, police said earlier this week. The sculpture, which has an estimated value of $300,000, resided in Justin Flippen Park in the city of Wilton Manors, just north of Fort Lauderdale.
Modrok also admitted to vandalized another piece of art, a popsicle statue by Craig Berube-Gray at nearby Rachel Richardson Park, earlier this month. Police arrested Modrok after surveillance footage depicted him in the act.
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Slonem, for his part, first heard about the act of vandalism when NBC Miami reached out to him for a quote, and since then he’s been processing the attack. It’s not the first time he’s lost a piece of public art.
“9/11 was worse, I lost an 80-foot mural,” Slonem told ARTnews, somewhat mystified that this kind of violence once again found its way to his work. “I was just shocked. It’s just such a strange thing, the fact that it’s happened before and the fact that it happened again.”
Thunderbunny, at 13 feet-7 inches and made of 6,500 pieces of blue glass, took a year to make and was installed in the park in May 2022 after local gallery Art Gallery 21 worked with the city to loan the sculpture from New River Fine Art in Fort Lauderdale. The sculpture was due to travel to a botanical garden, but those plans have now been stalled. Slonem and the commissioners are reviewing the work to see if repairs are even possible as the work sustained heavy structural damage. Slonem said it would take a couple more days to ascertain what can be done.
Despite the state of censorship of the arts being undertaken in Florida, it seems that Modrok was not motivated by the current political climate. NBC Miami reported that Modrok told local police that he had targeted the work because the park it resided in was named after Justin Flippen, a former mayor of Wilton Manors who Modrok blamed “for the birds that we hear.” The park was named after Flippen following his sudden death at 41 due to an aneurysm.
“This is really bizarre, because I’m a bird freak,” said Slonem. “I have a lot of pet birds, up to a hundred, and this guy didn’t like the mayor because of all the birds?” It’s unclear if Modrok knew about Slonem’s love of birds or if this was a coincidence.
Modrok has a previous criminal record, having served three years in Broward County for the sale of cocaine. Modrok was charged with three counts of criminal mischief in relation to his recent spate of vandalism.