STAMFORD — A colossal spoon, stained to symbolize burnt heroin, was installed Friday morning outside of Purdue Pharma’s Tresser Boulevard headquarters by protesters hoping to draw attention to the pharmaceutical company’s alleged role in the opioid epidemic.
The brief exhibition — trucked away by city workers a few hours after it was installed — coincided with a local art gallery opening.
The Fernando Luis Alvarez Gallery on Bedford Street opened the “Opioid: Express Yourself” exhibit on Friday night. The mixed-medium collection “provides a platform for artists in a variety of mediums to confront the culprits of this epidemic,” according to a news release.
The sooty steel spoon, which weighed more than 500 pounds, was put up by Alvarez, who was arrested an hour after the 8:30 a.m. installation and charged with obstructing free passage, police said.
The spoon sat in the middle of a driveway and the sidewalk.
“They dropped this 600-pound statue and obviously they can’t do that,” Police Capt. Diedrich Hohn said. “I think his agenda was to be arrested.”
The sculpture, by Massachusetts artist Domenic Esposito, was an homage to his brother, Danny, who has battled addiction.
“It’s a symbol of what’s basically the albatross of my family where my mom would find this kind of burnt spoon every time my brother relapsed,” Esposito said.
He said his brother started using heroin after taking OxyContin, the drug Purdue crafted and marketed feet away at 201 Tresser Blvd.
“He didn’t know what he was getting into,” Esposito said. “There’s tons of this stuff around and it’s relativity cheap still on the street...there is no one stopping it from ending up on the street.”
In a statement, Purdue Pharma said it “shares the protesters’ concern about the opioid crisis and respect their right to peacefully express themselves.”
“Purdue is committed to working collaboratively with those affected by this public-health crisis on meaningful solutions to help stem the tide of opioid-related overdose deaths,” the statement read.
Hohn said police tried to reason with Alvarez for more than an hour, asking him to remove the spoon. However, Hohn said he refused and police arrested him after consulting with the State’s Attorney’s Office.
After a few hours on display next to a Seward Johnson sculpture put up for the summer, a public works bulldozer lifted the spoon with the help of police officers and public works employees. The spoon was taken to a Waterside police evidence depot.
“It’ll be there until we know what to do with it,” one police officer at the scene said. “It’s a big sculpture."