Digital DNA artist threatens lawsuit, starts petition

Downtown sculpture must be removed by or on Feb. 23, according to the city

A lawyer representing the artist behind Digital DNA, a 7-foot-tall sculpture in Palo Alto's Lytton Plaza slated for removal later this month, has threatened to sue the city under the Visual Arts Rights Act of 1990 (VARA).

Artist Adriana Varella has been notified by the city that she must make arrangements to relocate the egg-shaped sculpture by or on Feb. 23. Last week, an attorney for Varella, Nicholas O' Donnell, sent a letter to City Councilman Greg Scharff in defense of the sculpture, making reference to VARA, which prohibits the intentional destruction or negligence of "works of recognized stature," and the city's own deaccession policy.

Digital DNA, the letter asserts, is a work of such stature, with its placement in the plaza as essential to its meaning and importance (a commentary on the impact of technology on society). O'Donnell's letter states that if the city of Palo Alto does not agree to keep the sculpture in place, as well as to perform routine maintenance on the work, Varella will consider filing a lawsuit.

The artwork, made from repurposed computer materials, is slated for removal from the city's collection after a November vote by the Public Art Commission. A staff report concluded the work is ill suited to weathering the elements and is too expensive to properly maintain. However, that decision has been met with repeated challenges from Varella and supporters of her work.

Palo Alto Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo noted in an email to the Weekly that O'Donnell is the third attorney Varella has engaged in the dispute and that the city's legal team is preparing a response.

"Despite our best efforts to prolong the life of the piece over the years, the materials are not suited to the outdoor environment. We have searched, but have not been able to identify an indoor space for the sculpture within the City to relocate it. We have complied with VARA, properly notifying the artist in November that she had 90 days to take possession of the artwork, or make other arrangements for removal," she wrote.

Varella has also created an online petition in defense of the sculpture remaining in place, which as of Tuesday has received 162 signatures, short 38 signatures of its goal.

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1 person likes this
Posted by Longtime in PA
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 7, 2018 at 6:41 pm

I never liked this piece of art. But I believe that the law must be respected. Years ago, I remember that artists had a right to what happened with their work, and it could not be easily moved, without permission.

The onus would be on cities to be certain of respecting that law, when they decide to install projects. It is not to be taken lightly.

An artist's reputation is at stake and not everyone is going to like every piece of public art in a community.

Although I am not fond of this piece, I support this artist 100%, and hope she prevails.

Also hope Palo Alto and other cities take note, and will consider their decisions about public art more carefully in the future, IF they insist upon installing more.

Like this comment
Posted by Anon
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Feb 8, 2018 at 8:47 am

Posted by Longtime in PA, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood:

>> I never liked this piece of art. But I believe that the law must be respected. Years ago, I remember that artists had a right to what happened with their work, and it could not be easily moved, without permission.

I'm not a lawyer and this is not legal advice. But, I personally don't believe that there is any restriction on moving it or reselling it. (In the US.)

Web Link

I personally think the city should sell this work, and, I agree with the poster on another thread who suggested that hereafter, the city lease such works for a limited period of time. Tastes and city planning requirements change over time.

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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