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Collector forced to remove Kiefer sculpture from his property after it is legally classified as a 'structure'

Andrew Hall says he will now loan the piece to Mass MoCA

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New York

A Connecticut-based energy trader and major collector of works by Anselm Kiefer must remove a massive sculpture by the German artist from his property in Fairfield County’s Southport historic district following a recent court ruling in favour of Fairfield Historic District Commission (HDC).

Andrew J. Hall says he will now loan Narrow Are the Vessels, 2002, an 80-foot, six-tonne installation made out of 17 “variably sized wavy sections of concrete” to the Massachusetts Museum of Contemporary Art (Mass MoCA).

In June, the Connecticut Supreme Court ruled that the work could legally be classed as a “structure” requiring approval from the HDC because it was “affixed to the land” by its own multi-tonne weight and gravity.

Mr Hall told The Art Newspaper that he now intends “to remove the sculpture and lend it along with some other major works by Anselm Kiefer to Mass MoCA for a number of years. Connecticut’s loss will be Massachusetts’ gain.” These works could include 30 paintings by Anselm Kiefer purchased by Mr Hall from White Cube gallery, London, in 2005.

Mr Hall initially filed an application with the HDC for permission to install the sculpture, but withdrew the application before it was acted on. The HDC then sued Mr Hall in a superior court in Stamford which ruled in 2005 that the HDC has jurisdiction over the work. The state supreme court in Connecticut has now affirmed the lower court ruling.

According to the supreme court records, the sculpture “was apparently purchased by a corporation controlled by Hall [Hall Collection Inc] in 2003 and shipped to and placed on the lawn of the defendants’ property”. The sculpture was purchased from Gagosian Gallery in New York, disassembled at a New Jersey storage facility and transported on five large flatbed trucks which “necessitated the partial closing” of the road where Mr Hall lives.

The records reveal that Mr Hall and the HDC did not “dispute that the sculpture was ‘erected’ or installed. Their principal disagreement concerns whether it constitutes a ‘structure’...and thus was subject to the commission’s [HDC] jurisdiction.” The papers describe the work as lying “on a…trench filled with more than 21 tons of gravel and stone”.

The records state that Mr Hall disagreed that the Kiefer installation was a “structure” under the terms of the law “because it is neither ‘affixed’ to the land by direct physical attachment nor embedded in the ground.”

However, the supreme court backed the HDC and affirmed the lower court ruling that the sculpture is a “structure”. Mr Hall was told he had to remove the piece or file for a certificate of appropriateness within 30 days.

Mr Hall told The Art Newspaper: “It was never our intention that the installation of this work on our property in Southport be permanent. We fully respect the court’s ruling but we are not going to file an application for a certificate of appropriateness for this sculpture with the Southport HDC as we do not feel they have any criteria for determining what is an ‘appropriate’ work of art for us to place on our property. Nor do we feel the members of the HDC are qualified to make such a determination, which in any event is completely subjective. We are reluctant to continue a battle that only lawyers can be sure of winning.”

He added: “Having read the court’s ruling, we note it is their opinion that the HDC very likely does not have jurisdiction over sculpture that can be moved ‘relatively easily’. We plan to replace the Kiefer work with sculptures that can be moved relatively easily.”

Bob Hatch, former chairman of the HDC, responded: “We never ruled against the sculpture itself but we indicated before Mr Hall put it in that we had jurisdiction over that and some other sculptures he wanted to put in his yard. He put in an application for 14 different things and then withdrew the application and went ahead and put in this very large sculpture. He was in violation because he had not submitted an appropriate application. The only thing the court ruled is that we do indeed have jurisdiction. Mr Hall now has the choice either to submit an application for the sculpture, or remove it.”