Lead, 24ct gold leaf
In the 1970’s it was found that a Russian nuclear research reactor on the shore of Lake Baikal had developed small fragments of gold on the lead shielding. These particles of gold had been formed by the intense energy of the nuclear reaction displacing protons from the lead atoms on the surface of the rector shield. This was one of the earliest examples of lead to gold transmutation, a pursuit of centuries of alchemic experimentations.
Coincidently, Lake Baikal also holds a historic relationship with gold. At the end of the first world war, the Tsar had the royal gold deposits moved out of St Petersburg and transported into anti-Bolshevik areas in Siberia for safe keeping. Several theories exist about the ‘Tsar’s lost gold’, two of which centre on Lake Baikal. One theory is that soldiers tried to transport the gold over the frozen lake during winter but were trapped by a blizzard, died and subsequently sunk when the lake thawed. The other, more credible theory, is that the train carrying the gold deposits derailed at the edge of the lake and was lost into the waters. The mystery of the missing gold continues to fuel conspiracy theories and treasure hunters to this day.
Reflecting Baikal’s history of lost and found gold, a sheet of reclaimed lead is gilded by the Siberian born Victor Ivanov. Installed with the gilded surface facing the wall, the only evidence of the hidden gold is through a soft golden light the leaches out around the edges.