If you’ve driven along Santa Monica Boulevard at any point during the last 25 years, chances are you saw Vermonica, a public art installation by Sheila Klein—though you probably didn’t realize it. Completed in 1993, the work consisted of 25 examples of street poles and fixtures that at some point have been part of the city’s street-lighting system, and which typified early 20th century craftsmanship.
To the undiscerning eye, Vermonica (a lovely portmanteau of Vermont Avenue and Santa Monica Boulevard) could have easily been mistaken for standard parking-lot lampposts, and in many ways that was the point: The best public art blends in to become part of the landscape (see also: Chris Burden’s Urban Light). But this is also partially why Klein had no say in its removal and relocation on November 21. In fact, she wasn’t even informed of it.
According to a statement on her website, Klein learned the installation had been moved via an email from a stranger, who wrote to ask what had happened to it. She later learned that the shopping center’s owner was redesigning the parking lot and asked that the structure be removed by January of 2018.
The Bureau of Street Lighting, which had cooperated in the creation of Vermonica, picked up the lights and reinstalled them on their own property. Klein writes, “This is not my piece and it is no longer Vermonica… I wish they had involved me to redesign the piece for the new location, but they did not.”
In fact, though, Vermonica had already survived long past its expiration date. Originally intended to stay up for only one year, it instead became one of the city’s low-key landmarks. Klein writes, “Vermonica operated within and outside of the realm of art.” She added, “I am proud that it lived for so many years and became woven into the vernacular of the city. I hope a new piece will emerge to keep this idea alive.”
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