In recent art news, Trinity Church in Lower Manhattan is being sued by a sculptor for relocating his bronze sculpture of the stump and root system of a very large sycamore tree entitled “The Trinity Root” that was formally installed on the church grounds.
In September 2005, the 18-foot-tall work was installed by sculptor Steve Tobin in the church courtyard in the same location where the original 70-year old sycamore tree stood until it was damaged and ripped out of the ground by the seismic impact of the collapse of the twin towers of the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001.
In late 2015, the sculptor discovered that the church had relocated the sculpture to a church-owned site in Connecticut without his consent. The sculptor had received photographs from the church showing the sculpture with “significant damage” after being told that the sculpture had arrived to the new location in good condition.
The recently filed lawsuit in the Federal District Court in Manhattan alleges that the church violated a law known as the Visual Artists Rights Act (VARA) that gives visual artists rights over their works even when no longer owed by them. The sculptor’s attorney said that the law “prohibits the removal of sculptures” created to be permanently installed at a specific site. “This is about the solemn promise the church gave to Steve Tobin when he offered to create that sculpture” and “[h]e offered to create it if the church would give it a permanent place in the courtyard. The church agreed.”
According to the lawsuit, after the church’s new leader was installed in 2015, he moved “to send ‘The Trinity Root’ away because he did not want non[-]parishioners and ‘hordes of strangers’ to continue to crowd the church’s courtyard.”
The church released the following statement: “While we have no comment on this litigation, Trinity is pleased to have the sculpture at Trinity’s retreat center, where it will be among a collection of planned sites that will encourage prayerful reflection, remembrance and spiritual transformation.”
For additional information in connection with this suit, see “Fate Of The ‘Trinity Root’ 9.11 Memorial By Steve Tobin To Be Decided In Federal District Court.”