Business Trumps Artistic Integrity

When famed sculptor David Phillips created gigantic bronze crabs and frogs to graze on the lawn at Boston's scenic Eastport Park, he considered the surrounding environment a pivotal component of the overall creation.

But recently, Fidelity Investment, the company that commissioned Phillips to create the art in 1999, decided to remove and relocate several of Phillips' sculptures to make way for renovations. Phillip filed suit, claiming the company violated the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990. According to the Act, "in a work of 'site-specific art,' one of the component physical objects is the location of the art. To remove a work of site-specific art from its original site is to destroy it."

Although a 2003 district judge issued a temporary restraining order against Fidelity to stop it from altering Phillips work, Phillips lost his three-year battle Aug. 22 when the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 1st Circuit ruled that Fidelity could remove the sculptures.

"We do not denigrate the value or importance of site-specific art, which unmistakably enriches our culture and the beauty of our public spaces," the court wrote. "We have simply concluded that the plain language of VARA does not protect site-specific art. If such protection is necessary, Congress should do the job."

Staff Writer

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