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A new piece of public art has been installed in a prominent location on First Street, adjacent to the newly opened Archer Napa hotel.

Napa artist Gordon Huether was commissioned by the hotel developers to create the piece, called The Basket.

The artwork is meant to serve as “a focal point and wayfinding element” to the entrance of the downtown hotel, said a news release from Huether. It’s located immediately north of the new hotel on First Street in a small plaza area.

“I’m thrilled” to be a part of Napa’s growth and creating “a gateway into this new part of downtown,” Huether said.

“We’re excited about the Napa installation not only because of the piece but also because it represents the progress of the hotel and the rest of the project towards completion,” said Mike Daood, president of LodgeWorks Partners, owner and developer of Archer Napa. The hotel, located at 1230 First St., was estimated to cost $70 million.

The hotel is one part of the redevelopment of First Street Napa, formerly known as the Napa Town Center.

Huether said completing an installing on such a large project “is like having a baby.” The process “was particularly long and painful because of The Hand debacle.”

Huether and LodgeWorks originally intended to install a sculpture of a giant orange-yellow hand holding a clear orb at the Archer.

Called “The Hand of the Land,” the proposed artwork generated heated debate about its prominent location on First Street, the design of the sculpture itself and the choice of Huether as the artist.

After public outcry, the plan for The Hand was dropped.

In an interview this week, Huether reflected on the controversy over The Hand.

“I’m not sure what that was about,” he said. “Somehow it got personalized because it was me. Apparently I am on a list of high-profile citizens of the community… and an easy target. I’m still perplexed by it all, to tell you the truth.”

And what became of The Hand?

Huether had the sculpture made and it is now prominently displayed at his studio on Monticello Road.

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The Hand was replaced by The Basket, a 22-foot sculpture, which incorporates horizontal woven aluminum bands and inset dichroic glass panels that refract light colors.

Installed last month, the artwork weighs about 400 pounds, Huether estimated. It was made at his Monticello road studio, which was not affected by the Atlas Fire, he said.

Huether said he took inspirational cues from the hotel’s design when conceptualizing the new sculpture. According to the artist, the concept for The Basket was inspired by the indigenous peoples of Napa Valley who were known for the artistry of their basket-making.

Huether said his intent was to honor and remember these artisans with the sculpture’s basket design, while integrating broader, fundamental human themes, the values of the Napa community and the interwoven experiences of an interdependent community.

Napa’s municipal code requires a public art element for commercial construction projects that cost more than $250,000. The cost of the art must be equal to at least 1 percent of the project’s construction costs. Huether estimated that The Basket cost around $225,000.

According to a news release, Huether’s knowledge of Napa culture “and broad experience in creating site-specific art installations with a distinct contemporary aesthetic resulted in his being selected for this unique sculptural project.”

Huether previously collaborated with the Archer team on a suspended art installation for its New York City property.


Business Editor

Jennifer Huffman is the business editor and a general assignment reporter for the Napa Valley Register. I cover a wide variety of topics for the newspaper. I've been with the Register since 2005.