Just as the mural at 26th and Wilshire depicts the end of a day at the beach, the sun may soon be setting on the work itself as local art advocates fear removal of the mural is imminent.
The mural lost its landmark status last year and the property owner has said all artwork on the site will be relocated to facilitate redevelopment of the site.
“See it now before it’s gone,” said an email sent out by the Santa Monica Conservancy last week. “Santa Monica’s iconic Home Savings building at the corner of 26th Street and Wilshire Boulevard will soon lose its remarkable artworks, including the impressive mosaic mural depicting a beach scene.”
The City Council approved a settlement with the building’s owner last year to revoke the landmark status of the Home Savings building and require City Hall to pay $250,000 to the property owners. The settlement also prohibits the city from re-landmarking the building for up to 5 years.
According to Constance Farrell, Santa Monica’s Public Information Officer, said the city has been told the mural may soon have a new home.
“The City has received notice that the owner has worked with the artist’s son to find a willing recipient for the mural,” she said. “The owner has therefore requested to proceed with removing the mural, which is permissible under the terms of the settlement agreement. The City is reviewing the request at this time.”
Preservation of the building has long hinged on renowned painter Millard Sheets who designed the building and the mosaic on the front. Sheets worked on dozens of other Home Savings branches throughout California in the 1950’s, 60’s and 70’s. The modern and classically formal architecture was meant to heighten the public’s trust in the financial institution. The mosaic titled “Pleasures along the beach” embodied Santa Monica’s values but Sheets has criticized the Santa Monica work saying he didn’t like the final result.
The debate over landmarking the property began in 2013 and reached City Council in 2017. Council found the building met landmark criteria because of its post-war architectural history, unique artwork and connection to Sheets regardless of his feelings towards his work. At the time, the attorney for the property owner, said the decision would go to the courts and the city eventually settled the lawsuit out of court.
Carol Lemlein with the Santa Monica Conservancy said locals may have forgotten the artwork lost its protections and some will be surprised when the work disappears.
“We wanted to make sure people are aware we could lose it anytime,” she said. “ We decided it was time to let people know if they want to look again. I think they’ve gotten used to think that it’s going to be there.”
In the email sent to supporters, the Conservancy said they disagreed with the settlement.
“Despite our efforts to dissuade the City from this settlement and persuade the owner to leave the artwork in its original setting, this important landmark will disappear,” it said. “Visit it now because we understand that the removal of the mosaic mural is imminent.”