Basel Artist Charged With Smuggling Exotic Animal Carcasses to Make Bizarre Sculptures

Enrique Gomez de Molina's sculptures are to die for. Literally.

The Miami-based artist was charged today with illegally smuggling exotic animal parts -- including birds of paradise and the world's cutest animal, a slow loris -- into Florida from Indonesia. Then he stitched, glued, and stuffed the parts together into Frankenstein's monster-like creations.

Last year, De Molina sold two of his controversial pieces for $10,000 at Art Basel satellite fair Scope. But will federal prosecutors let his (illegal) art go on sale once again?

According to the Feds, De Molina illegally imported "the parts, skins, and remains of species, including among others, whole cobras, pangolins, hornbills, and the skulls of babirusa and orangutans" from Bali, Indonesia, Thailand, the Philippines, Canada, and China.

He is charged with possessing the skins of a Java kingfisher, collared kingfisher, bird of paradise, and juvenile hawk-eagle as well as the carcasses of a slow loris and a lesser mouse deer, all from Indonesia.

None of them were legally imported into the United States, according to a press release from the United States Attorney's Office for the Southern District of Florida:

After receipt, De Molina would incorporate various parts and segments of the wildlife into taxidermy pieces at a studio in downtown Miami. He offered these pieces through galleries and on the internet for prices ranging up to $80,000. In December 2010, pieces constructed by De Molina were exhibited at Art Basel Miami, resulting in at least one significant sale and the subsequent illegal export of the piece to the Canada.
If you're having a hard time imagining De Molina's creepy, surreal, and -- to be honest -- often beautiful artwork, take a look at a video of him before Art Basel last year:

Spinello Gallery -- which represented De Molina last year at Scope -- declined to comment.

De Molina faces up to five years in prison and a $250,000 fine if convicted. But if authorities allow his art to go on sale this week, he could pay that off in no time.

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Michael E. Miller was a staff writer at Miami New Times for five years. His work for New Times won many national awards, including back-to-back-to-back Sigma Delta Chi medallions. He now covers local enterprise for the Washington Post.