Jurmala’s bronze tortoise sculpture to be auctioned off

During the artRiga art festival this autumn, it is planned to auction off one of Jurmala’s symbol – the famous bronze tortoise sculpture, says sculptor Jāņis Bārda’s wife Aivija Bārda.

The sculptor’s family explains their decision with the fact that the municipality has failed to pay in full for the sculpture in the last decade. ‘Due to recent events, our family needs a new home. Because of that, we have decided to sell the bronze tortoise. There is a great deal of interest for it,’ says the family’s representative.

Bārda mentioned that the sculptor still has not received the full payment for the sculpture even though 20 years have passed. She also mentioned events that took place in 1995. According to her, Jurmala City Council had placed an order for a sculpture in 1995. «However, when the sculpture was complete the money for it was transferred to then the city’s chief artist Egīls Kuks’ personal bank account. He promised to give the money to Jānis. However, hoping to make money, he decided to put it all in a bank as a deposit. That bank later went bankrupt, and the money was lost,» explains Bārda, adding that the family still has not received the money even though they had invested their personal money in the sculpture’s creation.

The municipality had allocated LVL 8,000 for the sculpture. According to Bārda, the tortoise is her family’s property, because no one paid for it and there is no commission agreement with the municipality. Her family also has Kuks’ promissory note.

Jurmala City Council representatives, on the other hand, claim «Aivija Bārda is neither the author nor the owner of the sculpture». Therefore the planned auction is viewed by the city council as illegal.

«This sculpture has been in Jurmala since 1995, when the municipality allocated LVL 8,000 to the creation of the sculpture in response to the offer from Bārda family. For twenty three years the municipality has been keeping the sculpture maintained, making sure it remains in all the accounting paperwork,» the municipality explains.

Representatives also add there are no reasons for talks about any unpaid debts, because there are documents in archives detailing the order for the sculpture and allocation of funding. In addition, the author – Jānis Bārda – has not voiced any complaints in relation to the sculpture.

Bārda explains that rights for the sculpture belong to her in accordance with the marriage agreement. On top of that, her husband had provided her with authority over the sculpture.

According to her, the last time she and her husband had tried to request payment was in 2003. «Since then I have tried numerous times to push this matter alone. Unfortunately, the municipality feigns ignorance,» says Bārda.

Funds from the auction are planned to be used to assist with projects of ‘Es redzu’ association, whose main activities are centered around integration of blind children and youngsters into society. Bārda family members are the founders and managers of this association.

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