Los Angeles is better known for tight abs and botox than it is for tuxes and bow ties -- but we were supposed to have had a truly Enormous sculptured bow tie to festoon a space in front of the Disney Hall. To be created by Claes Oldenburg and Coosje Van Bruggen, "Collar and Bow" was to have been erected in 2004 and was to have looked something like this:
In July of 2006, when I wrote about it here, the project was well behind schedule and plagued by technical difficulties. Today, that space in front of the Hall remains unoccupied and pedestrians can still pass without fear of being crushed by falling neckwear. The Tie exists, but it rests in a storage yard in Irvine and looks like this:
In the past year, as reported on the front page of today's Los Angeles Times, "Collar and Bow" has gone from highly public art work to the subject of a highly public lawsuit against the artists, designers and fabricators involved in its making and unmaking:
The damages, Music Center attorney David Lira said this week, 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.
Like the Tower of Babel and other unfinished works, "Collar and Bow" may simply have been Too Big, its creators' ambitions outstripping their ability to deliver it into the real world:
The sculpture was conceived a decade before Disney Hall's 2003 opening. Oldenburg and Van Bruggen had been toying with the idea of a giant bow tie, and their friend Gehry 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 concertgoers and passersby.
The architect suggested increasing the sculptors' initial 35-foot-high design to 65 feet. In May 2003, the Music Center contracted with Oldenburg and Van Bruggen's company, Storebridge, to create "Collar and Bow" for $2.2 million and deliver it 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.
The illustration at the top of this post of the sculpture in place comes from the website of one of the defendants, Westerly Marine, which provides this description of its fabrication:
The monumental artwork is made of aluminum, structural steel, stainless steel, then bonded with epoxy film, vacuum bagged and cured. The final finish will be painted with polyurethane enamel.
Although he was instrumental in starting the project and in expanding it to its gargantuan final scale, Frank Gehry is not a party to the "Collar and Bow" litigation. He is, however, the target of a lawsuit on the other side of the country, relating to MIT's allegedly leaky Stata Center buildings. The Disney Hall itself has not been without practical problems: one side of the building had to be sandblasted after completion because Gehry's signature highly reflective steel cladding threatened to roast the neighbors.
Filed last February, the "Collar and Bow" case is now scheduled for trial in Los Angeles Superior Court in mid-October.
For a last look at what might have been -- for better or worse -- here is a pristine 1:16 scale model of the work that was on offer in 2007 at London's Waddington Galleries:
[Cross-posted to Declarations and Exclusions.]