A&E

Egg-hausted effort

Digital DNA leaves Palo Alto for new East Coast home

A crew removes Digital DNA from Lytton Plaza on June 21, 2018, as they move it to a truck to be transported to a private buyer who acquired the sculpture. Photo by Veronica Weber.

After months of fighting plans to remove 7-foot-tall egg-shaped sculpture Digital DNA from Lytton Plaza in downtown Palo Alto, artist Adriana Varella was on site Thursday morning when the city took down the iconic piece after 13 years.

Watch a two-minute video of the sculpture getting removed, plus reaction from the artist and Public Art Program, here.

Varella watched on as movers secured the artwork onto a large wooden cart and gave the plastic-wrapped sculpture a big hug. Varella was shouting at whomever passed by about the removal. "This belongs to the city, this belongs to the people!" the artist yelled.

"This is a site-specific artwork. I created this for here, for the people that live here," Varella said.

Made of computer circuit boards, Digital DNA "tried to integrate the electronics original conceptual space with a synthetic yet organic form (the egg)," according to a press release issued Wednesday.

Earlier this year, a Silicon Valley entrepreneur who lives near the plaza offered to purchase the work, which he is donating to his alma mater, Harvard University. (The donor's name and purchase price have not been disclosed.) After going up northeast for restoration, the work will find its new home on a square at the Harvard Business School. Varella was "grateful and happy" the piece will be heading to the Ivy League school, where it's expected to be installed in the next month or two.

Varella had appealed to the city to keep the work at the plaza after the Public Art Commission voted last November to deaccession the piece at the recommendation of city staff who said the piece was damaged, made of materials unable to weather the outdoors and costly to maintain.

In response, Varella launched a crowdfunding campaign to restore the piece and give it another home. Community members also formed the Friends of Digital DNA group, which also tried to persuade the city against the removal. Varella also threatened to the sue the city under the Visual Arts Rights Act of 1990 that bans the intentional destruction or negligence of "works of recognized stature," a category Digital DNA falls under, according to a letter Varella's attorney Nicholas O'Donnell sent to City Councilman Greg Scharff in February.

The work has been "a fabric of our community, but the time came in which we needed to move on and it's going to a great new home," Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo said as she watched the piece get packed away Thursday morning.

The city has redone the computer circuit boards over the years to preserve the sculpture's life, but the materials, which also include fiberglass and Styrofoam, aren't suitable for the outdoors in the long term.

"It's understandable that the artist is upset and our sympathies go out to her."

Public art staff have been in discussions with the Public Art Commission over what's next for the Lytton Plaza space, DeMarzo said. They have suggested bringing temporary art installations, similar to what's currently done at King Plaza outside City Hall, but no decisions have been made.

Weekly staff photographer Veronica Weber contributed to this story.

Comments

12 people like this
Posted by SV long timer
a resident of University South
on Jun 21, 2018 at 4:58 pm

SV long timer is a registered user.

So sad to see this go. I have enjoyed this incredible piece of art which is so unique and so perfect for our community for many years. It works on so many levels.

Harvard's gain and our loss.

If the materials were not suited for outdoors, then I would be happy to contribute to a fund to commission a new one which is built to last.

A piece of Palo Alto has been lost...


13 people like this
Posted by Anonymous
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 21, 2018 at 5:44 pm

See ya!


13 people like this
Posted by Marty
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 21, 2018 at 6:03 pm

Marty is a registered user.

It was never really attractive. We puzzled over it for awhile. We GOT it. It has lost its Impact. Time for a new home. The artist should be happy, she is getting a new audience.


6 people like this
Posted by profound loss
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 21, 2018 at 9:24 pm

This is a profound loss, a unique piece which gave character and stature to University Ave and belonged in Palo Alto. It was a contrast to a grotesque Cheesecake Factory down the street which competed with it to define Palo Alto for visitors and residents. Fortunately the egg has a new worthy home. Perhaps a plaque at Harvard will
describe its roots in Palo Alto. The City of
Palo Alto does not have a clue. Thank you Adriana.


7 people like this
Posted by MegaFlops
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 2:05 am

> This is a profound loss

Profound: of a state, quality or emotion, very great or intense?

Really?

I thought the demolition of the old, not sure what the name of the building
was that housed the Bank Of America over by California Ave. was was sad.
That was a beautiful work of art that stood out against the sky that I was sorry
to see go ... this is just an egg made out of electronic garbage. Well, to each
his or her own. Egg had its moment. Glad Harvard can put fresh eyes on it.

It's interesting how we attach meaning and emotion to things.


5 people like this
Posted by Midlander
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 22, 2018 at 6:36 am

Midlander is a registered user.

Hurrah! I am so glad to see this go!


5 people like this
Posted by Wes
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 22, 2018 at 7:36 am

This monstrosity ruined Lytton plaza for the kids who used to hang out there. It's installation coincided with the city taking away the plaza as a place for youth to congregate. Good riddance.


Like this comment
Posted by Resident
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 22, 2018 at 7:49 am

I will miss this quirky piece, but I am pleased it is being moved to somewhere new for others to experience rather than being destroyed.


Like this comment
Posted by rsmithjr
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 22, 2018 at 9:20 am

rsmithjr is a registered user.

I will miss the egg, but it really didn't belong outside exposed to the elements.

It is too bad that no place could be found for it here, but I think the city council had tired of dealing with it.


2 people like this
Posted by Butch Cassidy
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 25, 2018 at 7:10 am

What a Huckster, good riddance long overdue ,keep going


1 person likes this
Posted by Local
a resident of Menlo Park
on Sep 7, 2018 at 5:05 am

Come on be really honest. I know you’re entitled to your opinion‘s and perhaps you know much more about our than I do. But I do believe everyone is allowed to express themselves.

I would prefer something that would be attractive to the general public. Not to and they’re timy slice of people who apparently have much better taste they feel the 99.9% of the people.

I can’t tell you how ecstatic I am, anyone I’ve spoken with, to see this go. This includes a wide range of people from computer research, DNA Studies, people from all walks of life. They’re not inspired, they are embarrassed. If you can find some college that finds an excuse for this because they believe it comes from California more power to them. It’s an illusion created that it’s valuable that’s great they’re welcome to it It’s nice everybody loves what comes from California. Unfortunately very few people are actually from here. But they are very good at being very loud about telling us what we think, mandatory compliance


8 people like this
Posted by Good Riddance
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2018 at 8:28 am

For an upscale city, Palo Alto has the worst taste in civic art.

Remember the grotesque 'Friends' sculpture on Embarcadero? Or the eyesores along California Avenue (e.g. the metal sculpture that looks like a mangled bike rack and the hideous wooden 'unicorn horn' pointing skywards?

Waving goodbye to 'the egg'. No art is better than having to endure the 'visually gauche'.



8 people like this
Posted by R. Davis
a resident of Crescent Park
on Sep 7, 2018 at 9:28 am

QUOTE: For an upscale city, Palo Alto has the worst taste in civic art.

If art is supposed to raise one's level of consciousness, the aforementioned examples
haven't done a very good job of it. *L*

Unless contempt & ridicule were the artists' original intent.


6 people like this
Posted by Waving Goodbye to 'Art'
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Sep 7, 2018 at 3:00 pm

> I will miss this quirky piece, but I am pleased it is being moved to somewhere new for others to experience rather than being destroyed.

Experienced rather than actually enjoyed or appreciated. Big difference.

>> I have enjoyed this incredible piece of art which is so unique and so perfect for our community for many years.

Somewhat reminiscent of PACC.

>>> a unique piece which gave character and stature to University Ave and belonged in Palo Alto.

What kind of 'character and stature'?. Curious.

>>>> I will miss the egg, but it really didn't belong outside exposed to the elements.

Mother Nature just wasn't strong enough to destroy it.

>>>>> It is too bad that no place could be found for it here,

Perhaps somewhere near the Baylands landfill off Embarcadero Road?


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

Post-election reflections -- and sponges
By Diana Diamond | 12 comments | 1,386 views

Couples: Philosophy of Love
By Chandrama Anderson | 0 comments | 1,049 views

El Camino: Another scheme to increase congestion?
By Douglas Moran | 3 comments | 367 views