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.