It was April of last year when The Eastsider reported that a Silver Lake mural of a wide-eyed Zapotec woman wearing a crown of iguanas had been painted over and covered with a two-story ad for Newcastle beer. This week, the artist of that mural, Annie Sperling of Silver Lake, filed a federal lawsuit against the property owner and beer maker, claiming they had violated federal and state laws protecting such artwork and resulted in $250,000 in damages to her mural, La Nuestra Reina de Las Iguanas, that once covered the side of a Sunset Junction building.
The defendants “acted in conscious disregard of the rights of Sperling and without taking advantage of preservation techniques that would have saved the “Our Lady of the Iguanas” mural for future enjoyment,” according to the suit filed in U.S. District Court.
Sperling asked that defendants reimburse her for damages in addition to punitive damages and also pay for the testing and possible restoration or removal of the mural.
Spelling is being represented by attorney Eric Bjorgum, who represented muralist Kent Twitchell his successful lawsuit that resulted in a $1.1 million settlement for painting out of the artist’s “Ed Ruscha Monument” mural in downtown Los Angeles. “Unfortunately, it appears that the lessons of that case are not widely remembered,” Bjorgum said.
Sperling, who painted numerous murals across Silver Lake and Echo Park during the 1990s, created the 1,050-square-foot “Our Lady of Iguanas” mural with the assistance of school children, some of whom still live in the neighborhood, as part of a neighborhood beautification effort, according to the lawsuit.
The Eastsider is attempting to get comment from the defendants, which include Barry Mason Enterprises, Heineken USA and AstraPacific Outdoor.