Portland sells $135,000 sculpture for $100; 'Tracing the Fore' to be moved to private garden

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PORTLAND — A controversial piece of public art on Fore Street has been sold for a fraction of its original cost and will soon be removed from the Old Port.

The sculpture, “Tracing the Fore,” will remain in Portland, but will be moved from Boothby Square to private property in North Deering.

The city notified 80 potential buyers the sculpture was for sale, according to City Hall spokeswoman Nicole Clegg. Only two requested more information.

One buyer, PWM Land of 110 Marginal Way, responded with a bid by the July 13 deadline, Clegg said.

Clegg said PWM purchased the $135,000 sculpture for $100. The company must also post a $10,000 guarantee for the artwork’s removal, and regrade the square to the city’s specifications.

The city solicited bids for the sculpture after it became the target of frequent criticism by residents and Old Port business owners.

The piece was created by Massachusetts artist Shauna Gillies-Smith. Its 10 stainless steel forms, varying in length from 5 feet to 35 feet, in five parallel lines, were supposed to be accented with tall wavy grass to evoke flowing water of the Fore River.

But the sculpture, installed in 2006, never achieved popularity. Instead, it prompted complaints about safety and its appearance.

The artwork has even become fodder for tourists. A passing Duck Tour narrator told a group of riders Monday morning that the sculpture was recently named one of most hideous in country.

The riders applauded.

But Scott Cohen, manager of PWM, said he is excited to have acquired the sculpture. He said he will send crews down to remove the sculpture as soon as the sales agreement with the city is signed.

“This is a really cool piece,” Cohen said.

He said the city and its Public Art Committee had great vision in commissioning the piece, but they chose the wrong location.

“It’s too cramped in,” he said of Boothby Square. “It’s just not the right spot. We have the right spot for it.”

Cohen said he plans to install “Tracing the Fore” on private property in the North Deering neighborhood.

Cohen said the one-acre site, on a hill abutting city property, is two years into a 10-year project to establish a sculpture garden. At some point, the garden may be be opened to the public, he said.

“It’s got a beautiful drop-off,” he said of the land. “It’s just wide open behind where we’re going to put it. In the winter time, it’s going to look like an ocean out there.”

Cohen, whose mother once served as a docent for the Portland Museum of Art, said art has always been one of his passions. He said the sculpture garden also contains the kinetic artwork of the Falmouth artist Jim Galante.

He said he is happy the artwork will be given another chance – as art.

“There was talk of it going to the scrap yard,” he said. “But I couldn’t let that happen.”

Randy Billings can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 100 or rbillings@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @randybillings.

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Tracing the Fore, installed at Boothby Square on Fore Street in Portland, will be moved to a private garden in the city’s North Deering neighborhood.