An enormous, egg-shaped piece of artwork that was at the center of a dispute between its creator and city officials in Palo Alto, Calif., departed the West Coast on a truck last week, bound for its new home more than 3,000-miles away: Harvard University.
Adriana Varella’s “Digital DNA,” a 7-foot-tall, 300-pound sculpture made of computer circuit boards, polystyrene foam, and welded steel, was recently purchased by an anonymous Harvard Business School graduate living in Silicon Valley for an undisclosed sum.
The secret buyer has donated the sculpture to his alma mater, school officials confirmed, and the egg will be placed outside at the graduate school in the fall.
“We feel very fortunate to have the opportunity to display this important work on our campus,” Brian C. Kenny, a spokesman for the Business School, said in a statement. “The impact of technology on our day-to-day lives is undeniable and we hope Adriana Veralla’s unique representation of this will challenge those in our community to reflect upon that fact.”
According to PaloAltoOnline.com, before the “beloved, local landmark” set off for the Ivy League, it sat dead-center in Lytton Plaza, a bustling outdoor space in tech-savvy Silicon Valley, for more than a decade.
Varella was commissioned by the city to create the sculpture in 2000, and it went up five years later after a few hiccups. (A warehouse where the first iteration of the egg was stored burned down with the artwork inside.)
In recent months, the egg became a target of city officials and the Public Art Commission, which claimed the sculpture was deteriorating and deemed it unsafe. Officials also said it “requires excessive maintenance” that is too costly.
The commission voted unanimously in November to remove the sculpture from the plaza, following a report from city staff that called for its de-accession, or removal and sale from the city’s holdings.
The decision set off “a fierce and public battle to preserve” the piece, Varella said in a press release, as she tried to raise money to restore it and stave off the removal with the help of supporters.
In the end, the artist lost the appeal to keep the egg in its Lytton Plaza location.
“Of course I am upset,” Varella said by telephone Friday. “It’s like separating a mother from its baby . . . It belongs to Palo Alto because it’s related to the identity of Palo Alto.”
Despite its removal and the battle that brewed between Varella and the city, she’s happy the egg will remain on public view — even if it’s on the other side of the country.
“I’m really happy it’s going to Harvard. I’m really, really happy,” Varella said, adding that the sculpture will make a pit stop at her New York City studio for repairs before its fall display.
She added, “I think Harvard is the best place to install ‘Digital DNA.’ It’ll be close to engineers, and scientists, and business people — it’s really cool.”