Monday, June 05, 2006

Painted Over Mural

The LA Times reported over the weekend that Kent Twitchell's iconic six-story mural in downtown Los Angeles depicting Ed Ruscha was recently painted over -- it's still not clear by whom. The story correctly notes that "works of public art are protected by law, including the federal Visual Artists Rights Act" -- but leaves out that, because the mural was apparently completed before the statute's 1991 effective date, VARA probably doesn't apply. (I say "probably" because there is an exception under which works created before the effective date, but to which the artist retained title through the effective date, are covered. It's impossible to tell from the news reports so far when, if ever, Twitchell relinquished title to the work.) The California moral rights statute has been in effect since 1979, however, and apparently was the basis for an earlier lawsuit by Twitchell over a 1974 mural that was painted over by a billboard company in 1986. An emotional follow-up piece in the Times by Christopher Knight indicates that a $175,000 settlement was reached the day before the earlier case went to trial. Knight adds: "Adjusted for inflation that's almost $250,000 today, for a smaller mural of more popular interest and less artistic significance than 'The Ed Ruscha Monument.'" Twitchell says he plans to sue again this time.