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Flagpole Artwork Won't Return to City Hall Site

October 25, 2005|Bob Pool | Times Staff Writer

A controversial flagpole art installation that Los Angeles officials ordered removed as unsafe last week will not return to its location at downtown's City Hall South.

The Museum of Contemporary Art had hoped to secure a city permit that would allow it to restore the room-like structure called "Kariforunia" to the top of the 1st Street pole. But city officials insisted on "further strengthening" of its 60-foot scaffolding, a MOCA spokesman said Monday.

The museum is trying to find another flagpole for the installation by Japanese-born artist Tatsurou Bashi, the spokesman said. The scaffolding has been removed from City Hall property.

Taking its name from the Japanese word for "California," Bashi's installation involved "encapsulation of public artwork" -- the top of the flagpole and a state flag -- in an unexpected private setting.

Viewers were allowed two at a time to climb the scaffolding stairs and view the top of the flagpole, which appeared to stand on a low table inside the room.

MOCA officials had characterized the artwork as "a wonderful coup" for Los Angeles.

Before settling on the City Hall flagpole, Bashi had considered several other sites: facades on old Broadway buildings, an angel atop the Central Library and a chandelier at Union Station.

Critics complained that the scaffolding and its watchtower-like top structure were an eyesore. Two weeks ago, intruders climbed into the tower and switched the state flag with a Los Angeles city flag.

The city's unexpected removal order came after Department of Building and Safety officials revealed that MOCA lacked the proper permits for the tower.

MOCA officials said they thought they had permission to erect it.

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