A judge blocks the demolition of a groundbreaking Iowa art installation

DES MOINES, Iowa — A federal judge has temporarily blocked plans to remove a nationally known outdoor artwork bordering a pond in a city park in Des Moines. The New York artist who created the work is likely to succeed in her argument that destroying the work would violate her contract with a local art center.

U.S. District Court Judge Stephen Locher ordered the temporary restraining order Monday afternoon after hearing arguments earlier in the day about the Des Moines Art Center’s plans to remove the artwork, called Greenwood Pond: Double Site. The center planned to begin this week a roughly three-month process to drain the pond and pull out the artwork.

Art center officials say the work, completed in 1996, has deteriorated beyond repair and is now dangerous to park visitors. The artwork offers different perspectives of Greenwood Pond, including wooden decking over the water and walkways that allow people to see the water and wetlands at eye level and from above.

The work is seen as a highlight of country artist Mary Miss. Other artists and arts organizations across the country have expressed outrage over plans to remove the installation rather than try to raise money for repairs.

Ms. has argued that the art center failed to keep her informed about the work she created and would violate a contract that requires the wood, concrete and metal artworks to be maintained and not removed without her permission.

“I am pleased and relieved by Judge Locher’s decision, not only because of what it has done for Greenwood Pond: Double Site, but because it reaffirms the rights of all artists and the integrity of their estates,” Miss said in a statement . “Let’s use this opportunity to achieve a result we can all be proud of.”

Art center officials, who estimated it would cost $2.6 million to repair the artwork, said public safety is their main concern but that they would adhere to the court-ordered pause. A large part of the works of art is now surrounded by fencing.

“We respect the court’s decision and we will suspend plans to remove the artwork from Greenwood Park,” the art center said in a statement. “The sections declared dangerous and beyond salvage will remain enclosed by protective fencing.

The judge will later hold a hearing on Ms.’s request for a preliminary injunction to continue the postponement of the demolition plans while the contract dispute moves through the courts.