Public art victory: $1.1M settlement in suit over destruction of LA Ruscha mural

Back in 2006, with little fanfare and no warning, a gigantic mural of artist Ed Ruscha by LA muralist Kent Twitchell was painted over. Twitchell sued the building's owner, the Department of Labor, citing the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA), created in 1990 “to prevent any destruction of a work of recognized stature,” especially public art. The work was damaged by asbestos-abatement crews and then painted over. This week Twitchell settled his suit against the government and 12 other defendents to the tune of $1.1 million -- thought to be the biggest ever settlement in a VARA case.
Photo: Ed Fuentes, Photo: view from a loft
The government's kicking in $250,000.
In a statement issued on behalf of his lawyers, Twitchell said, "This settlement sets an important precedent which will benefit other artists. This resolution makes it clear that when it comes to public art, you have to respect the artist’s rights, or incur significant liability.”
Twitchell's attorney says the settlement could help the artist restore and/or move the 11,000-square foot Ed Ruscha Monument elsewhere, but art conservators say that could be tricky and expensive.
Photo: Ed Fuentes, view from a loft

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