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Space Whale sculpture’s dismantling on hold, again

By Bob Conrad
Published: Last Updated on
The Space Whale at Reno's City Plaza is falling into disrepair and has yet to be removed, despite reaching the City's deadline to do so.

City Plaza’s Space Whale is still here. The City of Reno announced in August it was to be dismantled starting Aug. 10 and that the artist was responsible for its removal. For months, it was scheduled to be removed from City Plaza by today, Sept. 1.

“Following the most recent round of negotiations, the City and artist mutually agreed Space Whale would be removed no later than September 1, 2020,” city officials said in August.

That didn’t happen. Many are wondering why the whale is still here. City officials were light on details.

“There is a pause on the Space Whale’s dismantling,” said city spokesperson Jon Humbert. “The Mayor is trying to continue negotiations with the artists to see if arrangements can be made to preserve the art.”

This delay comes after more than a year of negotiations with the artist, who wanted $1 million for the piece on Facebook after the city turned down the artist’s offer to purchase the piece for $500,000.

A piece of jagged metal protrudes from part of the Space Whale.
A piece of jagged metal protrudes from part of the Space Whale. Image: Bob Conrad

The City offered the artist, Matthew Schultz, $150,000, which he turned down.

The whale was being leased by the City for $2,000/month, a lease that was meant to be temporary. The lease expired a year ago, and the whale’s been in a state of flux since.

Its condition has drawn concern as well. The stained glass is regularly broken and parts of the whale are being covered with foam and packing tape to hold pieces together.

The whale is uninsured.

“Much of the onus on the whale, its condition, its repairs, etc. — is on the artist,” Humbert said. “It’s been in a state of disrepair for some time, which has been a concern in ongoing negotiations. As we understand it, the artist is not insuring it at this time.

“Our belief is that the artist is responsible for mishaps that may occur. If the worst would happen, our belief is that the city’s general insurance would cover any concerns,” Humbert added. “The original contract was laid out very clear about indemnification and insurance requirements by the artist. While the contract has expired, we’ve been working in good faith every step of the way. Hopefully there will be continued respect and safety measures taken.”

Local artists have expressed frustration with the Space Whale. They said it was never meant to be a permanent fixture downtown and other sculptures should be allowed to rotate in and out of City Plaza.

UPDATE: This article has been updated to include statements from the city spokesperson about the whale’s insurance.

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