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.