Pop artist Claes Oldenburg best known for his simple and iconic works of 4 story clothes pins and cherry laden spoons is appearing in court as one of the defendants in a lawsuit placed by the House of Mouse.
Back in 2003 the Disney Co. contracted Mr. Oldenburg, his manufacturers Carlson & Co (a San Fernando art fabrication company best know for building Jeff Koons “Balloon Dog”) and his partner Coosje van Bruggen to build a metal statue of a black bow and tie surrounded by a white wing collar to be placed outside the newly constructed Walt Disney Concert Hall in Los Angeles; a building which was designed by friend of the artist Frank Gehry.
Gehry personally promoted the idea of Oldenburg doing the peice and thought that a swanky collar and tie, looking as if they had been tossed on the sidewalk by some colossus, would sound a playfully artful keynote for concert goers and passersby. “Collar and Bow” as it would be called was contracted in May of 2003 for $2.2 million and scheduled to be delivered by Aug. 15, 2004. Donations of $1.85 million from Music Center patrons Richard and Geri Brawerman and $1 million from the J. Paul Getty Trust were expected to cover the cost.
“This is the most complicated work we have done, in detail, engineering and form,” Van Bruggen said in a 2004 interview. In fact, technical difficulties arose, and the Music Center granted a two-year extension and authorized spending an additional $1.6 million.
As the second deadline neared, Gehry and Stephen D. Rountree, the Music Center president, said problems with connections between sections of the giant white collar had not been solved. The artist and Co. said fixing those would cost millions of dollars that the Music Center could not afford. Gehry vowed to help raise the money, saying, “I am laying my body on the tracks for this piece.”
A little more than six months later, in February 2007, the Music Center took the unusual step of suing the high-profile artists it had commissioned.
“It came to a point where the [Music Center] was like, ‘Hey, we’ve done everything we could. They’re not going to be able to deliver the sculpture,’ ” Lira said. With attempts at mediation and a negotiated settlement having failed thus far, he expects several months of depositions to be followed by a jury trial scheduled for Oct. 14.
The damages, Music Center attorney David Lira said this week, will come to more than $6 million, including payments for the sculpture, additional money for consultants and $600,000 that the Music Center plowed fruitlessly into reinforcing the sidewalk in front of the Frank Gehry-designed hall at 1st Street and Grand Avenue so the ground could support the heavy steel objects that never arrived.
The defense is going to have a hard time disputing the case according to Lira “My case will be a lot simpler: ‘Look, we paid over $6 million for a sculpture, and they never delivered it.”
Oldenburg and Van Bruggen are not conceding failure, said one of their attorneys, Bruce Wessel. He said they recently asked Buro Happold, an international engineering firm, to submit a proposal. Subsequently, the firm said that for $350,000, it would evaluate the sculpture, suggest fixes and estimate what those repairs would cost. The artists wanted all parties to the suit to split the $350,000 and pledged $70,000 themselves.
The suit is proceeding at a difficult time for Oldenburg, 79, and Van Bruggen, 65. The Times of London reported in September that cancer that Van Bruggen had battled for six years had spread to her bones. She told the newspaper that “a lot of superficial things have dropped away from my life, but my creativity and my work with Claes remain central.”
Read more at the LA Times Article
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