Artist Suing New York Church for Over $1M After Removal of 9/11-Themed Sculpture

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(Photo: Steve Tobin)The Trinity Root sculpture, created by Steve Tobin. At one point, the art piece was located at Trinity Church in New York City.

A Pennsylvania-based artist is suing a New York City church over their decision to remove his 9/11-themed sculpture from their grounds.

Steve Tobin sculpted a three-ton work titled "The Trinity Root," which was donated to Trinity Church in Manhattan with the intention of it remaining at the parish courtyard indefinitely.

After finding out that the piece was moved and damaged, Tobin filed suit on Wednesday in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of New York.

Attorney Steven S. Honigman, who is helping to represent Tobin, provided The Christian Post with a copy of the amended complaint.

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(Photo: Steve Tobin)Artist Steve Tobin and his "Trinity Root" piece, located at Trinity Church in New York City.

"This is an action under the Visual Artists Rights Act of 1990 (VARA) to remedy an affront and damage to an acclaimed artist's honor and reputation, and to return an iconic sculpture, together with soil and DNA from 9/11 embedded in its patina, to the site it was created for and was promised it would occupy," read the complaint.

"The Act's protection against destruction, distortion, mutilation, or modification prohibits the removal of sculptures such as The Trinity Root from a site when they are created for and intended to be permanently installed at that specific site."

The complaint alleges that Trinity Church has violated an agreement with Tobin to keep the sculpture on their parish property.

The complaint also specifically calls for Trinity Church to return the sculpture to its previous location on the parish grounds and to pay for damages.

"For violation of Tobin's rights under VARA by causing prejudice to Tobin's honor and reputation, [complaint demands] awarding damages to Tobin in an amount to be determined by the Court and not less than the maximum statutory damages of $100,000," continued the amended complaint.

"[Plaintiff demands] for breach of the Church's contract that The Trinity Root would be located permanently in the Courtyard, awarding damages to Tobin in an amount to be determined by the Court but no less than the cost in excess of one million dollars incurred by Tobin in creating The Trinity Root, plus applicable interest."

A large bronze sculpture installed at Trinity Church in 2005, The Trinity Root was 13 feet tall, 15 feet wide, and weighed around three tons.

It was made in homage to an old tree destroyed during the September 11 terrorist attacks in New York that, because of its position, shielded the parish's St. Paul's Chapel from harm.

Tobin and his assistants reportedly took about a year to complete the sculpture, with the cost of the project coming to over one million dollars. 

The sculpture was dedicated on the four-year anniversary of the terrorist attack and remained at the church's courtyard until December 2015, when it was moved to a new location.

CP reached out to Trinity Church on Friday, with a representative explaining that the church offices were closed for Good Friday.

The spokesperson did provide a brief statement to CP from Nathan Brockman, spokesman for Trinity Church:

"While we have no comment on this litigation, Trinity is pleased to have the sculpture at Trinity's retreat center, where it will be among a collection of planned sites that will encourage prayerful reflection, remembrance, and spiritual transformation," stated Brockman.

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