‘Digital DNA’ egg sculpture gets a reprieve

The Digital DNA sculpture in Lytton Plaza
The Digital DNA sculpture before it was removed from Lytton Plaza

Daily Post Staff Writer

The artist behind “Digital DNA,” the condemned 7-foot circuit board egg sculpture in downtown Palo Alto, has been granted another 30-day extension to remove it before the city takes matters into its own hands, city officials said yesterday (March 30).

Adriana Varella has been fighting the Palo Alto Public Art Commission’s decision to remove the egg from its home at Lytton Plaza.

The commission decided to remove the egg on Nov. 16 because of the more than $1,000 per year in maintenance that it has continued to cost the city for clear coatings of the circuit boards, replacements of broken boards and replacements of popped-out screws.

The decision was made in accordance with the Deaccession of Artwork Policy, which the city approved in February 2017.

It allows the commission to remove public art that has fallen into disrepair or requires expensive maintenance, and if there is no appropriate city-owned site where the work can be moved.

You can have egg for $250,000 to $500,000

But Varella isn’t giving up the egg for free. She’s offering it for $250,000 through the New York City gallery ARTI.NYC, including restoration. For $500,000, Varella will restore it in 24-karat gold, ARTI.NYC Creative Director Daria Pletneva told the Post.

The city only started notifying artists of the possibly of artwork being removed from city streets in the last few years, according to Community Services Department Assistant Director Rhyena Halpern.

Varella wasn’t told that the egg could be removed when she agreed to build it for $9,950 in 2000. The city initially gave Varella until Feb. 23 to remove the egg.

Her lawyer, Nicholas O’Donnell, fired back, claiming in a letter to Councilman Greg Scharff that the city would be violating the federal Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990, which protects artists from having their
work modified in a way that harms the artist’s reputation. It also prevents the destruction of artwork of recognized stature.

30 days notice

The city also learned that under the California Arts Preservation Act of 1979, it was required to post a public notice of the sculpture’s removal 30 days in advance.

The city placed an ad in the Post on Feb. 15, calling for anyone interested in claiming the sculpture and paying for its removal to contact Public Art Program Director Elise DeMarzo by March 19.

Varella’s deadline has now been extended to the end of April. If the egg isn’t removed by then, DeMarzo will work with the city attorney’s offi ce to contact the parties who inquired about the sculpture.