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Iowa Court Hands Verdict Regarding Mary Miss Installation

The court handed an ‘unsatisfactory’ verdict about the installation battle between Mary Miss and the DMAC.

The US District Court for the Southern District of Iowa said that the installation cannot be allowed to be demolished. At the same time, the court also ruled that it cannot force the Des Moines Art Centre (DMAC) to bear the expenses of the repair if the court deems the expenses to be high. The DMAC had earlier cited the cost of repair to be around $2.6 million. As such, the matter came to an unsatisfactory halt with the status quo maintained. Judge Stephen Rocher remarked: “The end result is therefore an unsatisfying status quo: the artwork will remain standing (for now) despite being in a condition that no one likes but that the court cannot order anyone to change.”

Mary Miss

The work in question is Greenwood Pond: Double Site, a land installation made by artist Mary Miss for the DMAC in 1996. Located in Greenwood park, the work comes under the purview of the DMAC. However, when the museum board informed Mary Miss that the installation was structurally unsound and would have to be demolished, the artist responded with a legal complaint filed in April.

The artist’s primary argument was the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) of 1990, which protected installations deemed artistic from destruction. In response, the DMAC cited the repairs from 2014 which, at the time, claimed to have only prolonged the structure’s life by a decade. The museum also offered further evidence of structural faults in the installation, dating back to 1996.

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Mary Miss stated she was satisfied with the verdict and thanked the court. The DMAC, however, said they are looking into options to resolve the “court-ordered stalemate”.