Holocaust Revisited

A Ballwin neighborhood continues to boil over Lewis Greenberg's art project: a remembrance of Nazi atrocities.

Matters came to a head this February when Purviance put his house up for sale. Anticipating the Highway 64 construction project, he bought land in the city near Forest Park so he could be closer to his job at Washington University Medical Center. He planned to build a new house, once the old one had sold. "I had buyers who seemed to be interested," Purviance says, "until they saw the property next door." Although he lowered his asking price by $15,000, Purviance still failed to get an offer and had to abandon his plans to move. "Tim has a lovely home," Ratica says. "Normally, it would have sold."

Frustrated by his inability to sell his house, Purviance circulated a petition through Whispering Oakwood and Mayfair, the neighboring subdivision, demanding that the city of Ballwin require Greenberg to remove all the art he has put up since 2004. "This is not about me," he says. "This demonstrates what's going on in the community."

Purviance collected 221 signatures, or more than 90 percent of the subdivisions' residents, and presented the petition to the Ballwin Board of Aldermen at their meeting on June 25. Three weeks later, the city served Greenberg with a summons to appear in court.

Art or eyesore? Lewis Greenberg will defend his Holocaust Revisited in court.
Kit Kellison
Art or eyesore? Lewis Greenberg will defend his Holocaust Revisited in court.

At the hearing, city prosecutor Richard Fox demanded that Greenberg remove all the art in his yard. Through his lawyer David Howard, a St. Louis civil rights attorney, Greenberg refused, claiming the city's demand was a violation of his First Amendment rights. The case is set to go to trial in October. If Greenberg loses, Howard plans to appeal the case in state and federal courts. "We're going into war mode," he says.

Greenberg, meanwhile, plans to keep his Holocaust Revisited intact until he dies, though his fondest wish is that it be moved to the Museum of Modern Art in New York. "I hope you don't come by ten years from now," he says, "and it looks like every other house around here."

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