Public Art Installation, They Have Landed, Disappears

They Have Landed, Loren Naji’s sculpture installed as public art near the West Side Market in Ohio City, covered in debris from nearby construction. Photo by and courtesy of Christine Ripley.

For more than 10 years, Loren Naji’s iconic sculpture “They Have Landed” sat politely on a slip of greenspace in front of the West 25th RTA station, but now it’s gone.

“They just threw it away,” said Naji during a Feb. 16 phone interview. “Can you imagine?”

Its role as public art was clear: The sculpture was marked with a metal plaque. But apparently, as the much ballyhooed residential project INTRO rose along Lorain Avenue across from the West Side Market, it cast a considerable shadow on the eight-foot orb, however figuratively. A plan marked “city requested revisions 11/22/2021” shows Naji’s sculpture as slated for “miscellaneous removal.” Unfortunately, Naji says no one told him about the impending demo even though he had complained about the treatment of the sculpture last summer when he found it covered in debris.

“They were stacking all kinds of crap on it,” recalled Naji. “I got pissed off.” But nothing happened.

The official “removal plan”

Then a friend called him, saying the sculpture was just plain gone. Naji said he filed a police report about the disappearance. It was a smart move, considering in 2018 a federal judge awarded $6.7 million to a group of graffiti artists whose works were destroyed in 2013 at the 5Pointz complex in Long Island City, Queens.

“If they didn’t want it there anymore,” said Naji of his quirky sculpture, “they should have called me.”

Now scant evidence remains of “They Have Landed” and a slew of unanswered questions, starting with: Who gave the authorization to remove the object? The only entities that could be responsible, said Naji, are the City of Cleveland, RTA, INTRO project developer Harbor Bay Ventures, or the construction outfit on the project, Panzica.

The spherical structure boasts a unique history, inside and out. It was born from more than 150 sheets of plywood,100 pounds of screws, countless sheets of sandpaper, and cases of Liquid Nails. Construction took more than a year and cost an estimated $5,000. The sphere started its life as an IngenuityFest display in 2010 after which it spent more than a month on the sidewalk at the downtown landing of the Detroit-Superior Bridge, and then went into storage. With help from then-councilman Joe Cimperman, it landed at the Abbey Avenue location. During the work’s September 2011 dedication, community members filled the 3,000-pound wood structure with personal ephemera before it was sealed as a time capsule, to be opened in 2050.

Until then, the unassuming orb was living it’s best life, getting ensconced on the Ohio Outdoor Sculpture site, and sitting in as an ode to roundball during the 2016 Cavs championship fever.

Now of course, things have changed.

“All that was left was the bronze plaque with the artist information and the eight-foot-deep foundation where the sculpture was attached and installed,” said a February 15 press release about the disappearance from Naji.

“A lot of people are in shock about it,” Naji added on Feb. 16. “I’m investigating all this.”

UPDATE: Naji filed a lawsuit, suing Harbor Bay Development Advisors and Panzica Construction Co., seeking unspecified damages to compensate “for his financial losses and for the damage to his honor and reputation and for his humiliation, mental anguish, embarassment, stress and anxiety, loss of personal dignity, and any other physical and mental injuries he suffered …” He is seeking a jury trial.

CAN Blog will continue following this developing story. We have queries out to Panzica Construction and Harbor Bay Ventures. Cleveland Ward 3 Council Member Kerry McCormack does not “have any additional information or background on this one.” We have also queried RTA, which is looking into the matter.

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The opinions expressed on CAN Blog are those of the individual writers. Art is somewhat subjective. Well, somewhat. But yes, everybody's a critic.