Daniel Grant explains how a market has grown up around finding new homes for outdoor installation works that have outlived their original commissions. He cites Bonham & Buterfield’s $152,000 sale of a sculpture of a DNA molecule that stood outside a former pharmaceutical company’s offices. B&B’s Patrick Meade was involved in the sale:
The sale and the price, Meade noted, have resulted in more calls to Bonhams & Butterfields from (California) owners of big, publicly displayed works of art. Consigning to auction houses may be one answer to the question of what to do with public art that its owner no longer wants. With thousands of works of art in public spaces — sculptures and murals, mostly — that have been commissioned and installed over the past four decades, the question is likely to come up more and more.
And, what’s wrong with the art that someone wants to get rid of it? Nothing, necessarily. Valeant Pharmaceuticals relocated 25 miles away to Aliso Viejo, selling the building in Costa Mesa and the art in front of it as separate transactions. In another instance, an environmental landscape, or bush sculpture, called “Topo” that artist Maya Lin had been commissioned to create for the City of Charlotte, North Carolina back in 1991, interfered with the plans of an Atlanta-based real estate developer, Pope & Land Enterprises, which bought the land (and the art on it) from the city in 2006. In 2000, when Comerica Bank moved its branch within Detroit’s downtown Renaissance Center to a location that could not accommodate the 160-foot long mural by Glen Michaels, which had been commissioned back in 1975, the artwork had to be taken out. A sculptural installation by Stephen Antonakos, “Neon for Southwestern Bell,” which had been commissioned by the company in 1984, was in the way of a current improvement project in Dallas’ central business district, leading AT&T to want it gone. Advertising giant J. Walter Thompson, which had amassed an 8,000-10,000 art collection between 1965 and 1986, has spent the last 20 years disposing of it, including the three life-size bronze figures at the entrance to the elevators that the company had commissioned Bruno Lucchesi to create in 1966.
A Secondary Market for Public Art (Huffington Post)