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'Broken Angel' Developer Uses Former Owner's Art Without Permission

By Janet Upadhye | May 4, 2015 7:46am
 Angel faces, once housed in the Broken Angel House, are now on display in the condos that replaced it.
Broken Angel House
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CLINTON HILL — Artwork from the former Broken Angel House is being displayed in the condos that replaced it — without permission from the artist and former property owner, he told DNAinfo New York.

Arthur Wood, who was evicted from the property at 4 Downing St. after the city deemed it unsafe, said he did not give developer Alex Barrett permission to use his artwork — including two cast concrete angel faces and a terra cotta sculpture.

Wood spent 30 years living and transforming the home, where he raised two children with his wife Cynthia, into a work of art with asymmetrical towers, bizarre angles, brick wings and stained glass.

The house, that he named "Broken Angel," gained notoriety in 2004 when it was used as the backdrop for the movie "Dave Chappelle's Block Party."

In 2013 the 84-year-old widower was evicted and given 30 days to leave his home. Wood said the short time period did not leave him enough time to organize the removal of 30 years of art — and he was forced to abandon his pieces at the site. The angel faces were embedded in the walls of his home and would be very hard to carry out, Wood said.

Barrett bought the site for $4.1 million last year.

Wood's original artwork is now being used in the new condos alongside sleek white-tile bathrooms, high ceilings, loft-like layouts and modern kitchens.

Two angel faces that Wood sculpted with his then 16-year-old son, are now on display in the building's entranceway and the terra cotta piece will serve as the backdrop to one of the unit's living rooms, according to Brownstoner.

"It is heartbreaking," Wood said. "They have taken my home and now my artwork."

"And they clipped the angels' wings," he added referring to the fact that the developer used only the angels' faces in his design and not the full 30-foot sculptures that also included wings.

"My artwork is now also out of context," he said. "To me that is like chopping of the head of the Mona Lisa and using it in a Starbucks ad."

Wood does not have plans to file a lawsuit. It is unclear if he has any legal rights to the artwork.

Barrett did not respond to repeated requests for comment.