When Stern, an avid art collector, died in 2013, his house was left to the Menil Foundation, which ultimately sold it a year later. All the work in the house was removed and retained by the collection following the sale. Because LeWitt’s physical work was site-specific and meant to be temporary, it was covered up in what the collection called “standard procedure for effacing LeWitt’s wall drawings.”
“It is important to underscore that the Menil did not destroy a work of art; for LeWitt, the work of art lives in the certificate of authenticity and diagram,” the collection said in a statement. Because the Menil owns the certificate, it holds the right to create the work (say, for an exhibition) in conjunction with the LeWitt estate (which declined to comment for this piece). The drawing, per specifications, would have to be completed by authorized craftspeople. Still, through a spokesperson, the Menil said it does “not take issue with the homeowner doing whatever projects they wish to undertake in their home.”
Hitchcock said she understands his work is the idea and that they’re not trying to say otherwise in an attempt to dupe people or enrich themselves. “We’re not trying to uncover it so we can sell it,” as she puts it. Currently, they don’t have a definitive timeline or plan on how unearth the drawing. They’ve reached out to conservators as well as a local artist who helped prime the wall (one coat of Sherwin Williams aqualock, five coats of Sherwin Williams paint) before the drawing’s creation.
A recent piece
called it “impossible” to unerase the LeWitt since the work is “simply the remnants of what was once the execution of the conceptual work” and said any attempts to do so are “messing up a perfectly good wall.” But still, it isn’t hard to understand why someone might jump at the chance to unearth the execution of a LeWitt wall drawing—even if the blue grid is not actually a LeWitt artwork.
“How could any modern art lover who sees a LeWitt peeking out from behind crumbly sheetrock resist?” Hitchcock told me. “What art lover wouldn’t scratch the paint?”