ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED Feb. 4, 2010
A deeply divided City Commission voted to accept an offer from the owner of “Unconditional Surrender,” which would keep it on the bayfront for at least 10 years.
A World War II veteran wants to buy the sculpture, which is similar to the famous Life magazine photo of a sailor kissing a nurse on V-J Day, and donate it to the city.
Some city commissioners said they feared a possible copyright-infringement lawsuit from Time-Life and insisted The Sculpture Foundation, which owns the sculpture, get a license from the media company.
But sculptor Seward Johnson refused, because he said it was not a copy of the Life magazine photo.
Early last month, the commission issued a final deadline, saying if an agreement was not reached by Jan. 31, “Unconditional Surrender” would be removed from the bayfront in May.
Late last week, The Sculpture Foundation offered to place enough money in escrow to cover any possible copyright suit.
That was not enough to sway Commissioner Terry Turner, who said that accepting the donation would mean the city condones theft.
“I think we need a higher standard in government,” he said.
Commissioner Suzanne Atwell sided with Turner.
“I continue to feel we are being manipulated and being held hostage,” she said.
But Mayor Dick Clapp and Vice Mayor Kelly Kirschner said they were satisfied that the escrow account would protect city taxpayers from any potential liability, which is what concerned them originally.
“What I see is a pretty strong protection,” said Kirschner.
Clapp and Kirschner also said they were swayed by the fact that Time-Life has not sued over at least five other similar sculptures around the country, including one that sat directly across the street from Time’s New York City headquarters.
Commissioner Fredd Atkins, who has consistently been in favor of accepting the donation, voted with the mayor and vice mayor.
After the vote, Virginia Hoffman, a member of the Public Art Committee and one of the most vocal opponents of “Unconditional Surrender,” was disappointed with the decision.
“It’s clear (the majority was) voting on a populist level,” she said.
Contact Robin Roy at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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