SAN FRANCISCO -- The sculptor whose bust of assassinated Mayor George Moscone was rejected by city officials because of its graphic renderings of the mayor's violent death says he may refuse to return the city's $18,500 downpayment.
Robert Arneson, who is in New York for an exhibition of his work at the Whitney Museum of Modern Art, said Tuesday he would contact his lawyers to see if he had to pay back the initial commission.
The Benicia, Calif., artist said he put the entire $18,500 into creating the bust.
'I was in good faith all the way,' Arneson said. 'The (first) payment went into the work. I had to hire an assistant for four months and move the sculpture down from my studio in Benicia and have it installed.'
Arneson was to receive an additional $18,500 payment for the completed work once it was accepted by the San Francisco Art Commission.
The work was commissioned for the new Moscone Convention Center, but when it was delivered officials discovered that the pedestal beneath the bust depicted the strife surrounding the assassinations three years ago of Moscone and Supervisor Harvey Milk.
The controversial pedestal, which was kept veiled during the center's opening ceremonies, had on it splotchs of blood-red paint, potmarks representing bullet holes, the imprint of a revolver, the words 'Danny Boy' in reference to convicted killer Dan White and other symbols.
Officials had said the bust disturbed Moscone's widow and that she had asked it removed.
By a 7-to-3 vote Monday the commission rejected the work.
Ray Taliaferro, president of the Art Commission, said Tuesday he remained firm in his understanding over the money and the return of the statue, which was reached between Mayor Dianne Feinstein, Arneson and himself at a meeting in the mayor's office last week.
'The bust remains (Arneson's). We have rejected it. We expect our money back,' Taliaferro said.
The commission president said he thought Arneson 'fully understood that.'
Deputy City Attorney Steven Diaz said it was his understanding that the money would legally have to be returned to the city because the sculpture did not conform to the contract.
Arneson said with all the publicity about the statue he was considering selling it on the open market.
But the Moscone Center may not be without a statue of its namesake for long. Sculptor Blake Sampson told the Art Commission Monday that he would create a new bust for 'free.'
No decision, however, had been made on Sampson's offer.