Tequila Importer Agrees to Remove West Hollywood Statue

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A tequila importer agreed Thursday to remove a 30-foot statue it donated to West Hollywood as public art, heeding the cries of many residents that the artwork is ugly and tasteless.

"The community felt very strongly about its removal and we will honor that," said Steve Goldstein, a spokesman for Heublein Inc., the Connecticut-based importers of Cuervo tequila.

The decision comes nearly two years after the statue's installation at Santa Monica Boulevard and Doheny Drive. Almost immediately some expressed dislike for the statue--a brightly painted abstract rendition of birds playing saxophones--and, in December, residents presented the City Council with petitions requesting its removal.

Mayor Paul Koretz said the city made a mistake when it agreed to a five-year display of the art.

"If you look at it for a month or two, it generates some discussion, which is good," Koretz said. "But for five years? A lot of residents were looking at this as a five-year to life sentence with the artwork."

Residents also criticized the artwork because it promoted Cuervo tequila--the brand name is inscribed prominently on the piece. The sculpture was created by Mexican artist Javier Vazquez on commission from Heublein.

"I'm just delighted to hear that it will be removed," said Donald Deluccio, president of the West Hollywood West Residents Assn., which lobbied the council for the statue's removal.

Goldstein said it would cost about $30,000 to remove the statue. Heublein is willing to pay some of the cost, Goldstein said, even though the city agreed in its contract to bear all the costs of removal.

But Koretz said he would not vote to approve spending any city money on the removal project.

"They are a multimillion-dollar company, let them remove it," Koretz said.

It is unclear what will happen to the statue's base, which was designed as an AIDS memorial and features tiles inscribed with names of people who died of the illness, Goldstein said.

"We think it would be unfair just to orphan those names," Goldstein said.

The statue will probably be moved to one of two Southern California cities whose mayors have expressed interest in the artwork, said Goldstein, who declined to identify the cities.

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