US Government compensates artist for painting over monumental mural

BOSTON. The US government has paid $250,000 to American muralist Kent Twitchell as part of the $1.1m settlement of a lawsuit over the obliteration of his 70-foot high mural in Los Angeles, Ed Ruscha Monument. The settlement is believed to be the largest ever received in a claim based on the federal Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) or the California Art Protection Act, both of which forbid the desecration or destruction of certain public art without prior notice to the artist to allow for removal.

Contractors and managers who were also sued for alleged involvement in the damage paid the balance of the settlement, which was announced on 30 April. It is not known which party gave the order to paint over the mural. The action occurred in 2006, soon after the wall surface was substantially damaged by hole punching to insert rust inhibitors. The mural took nine years to complete and was “an acclaimed artistic icon” in Los Angeles for over 18 years, the artist said.

The settlement “makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability”, Twitchell said.

The gigantic portrait of pop artist Edward Ruscha was one of Twitchell’s many murals depicting artists. He said that he could have arranged to preserve the mural, if he had received the legally required notice.

A principal issue that would have been resolved at trial was whether the mural was capable of being removed without de­struction. Several of the artist’s outdoor murals have successfully been moved to new locations, Les J. Weinstein, Twitchell’s attorney at Sheldon Mak Rose & Anderson, Pasadena, told The Art Newspaper.

It may still be possible to

salvage the mural. The settlement agreement gives Twitchell a year to restore and move the piece.

Martha Lufkin

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