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PSST – A Man of Stature

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"Art" on the Sandpiper condominium grounds in Palm Desert. Mark Hild and Michael O’Neill flank the latest addition to their extensive art collection.

Art looks out across the Sandpiper condominium grounds in Palm Desert. At 9 feet tall, with bug eyes, mismatched feet, and a hole in the middle of his tattooed chest, he cuts an imposing figure. Michael O’Neill thinks he’s destined for icon status.

Art is, literally, a ceramic man. O’Neill, on whose patio he stands, bought the sculpture at the 2009 Laguna Arts Festival in a festival-long auction. Ten artists collaborated on the project, each making a portion of Art’s body.

“It’s the first time [the festival] has done this,” O’Neill says. “It’s going to be an icon both for the festival and for collectors. I see its value in time could be quite enormous.”

O’Neill, who also has a home in Laguna, placed several bids on Art but had to leave town before the auction closed. “I called friends 30 times and asked, ‘Has anybody else bid on it?’” He captured Art for $3,000, then had the 800-pound sculpture delivered to the desert, where he paid $1,500 for its installation.

“It has all the different styles of all the different artists in one piece. How could you resist that?” he asks. “I couldn’t.”

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