"The Christ" is leaving Scottsdale.
The life-size Jesus sculpture that stirred debate over how art should be displayed in downtown Scottsdale has been sold to a California businessman and will be removed by this weekend.
The owners of Lyon Gallery, which displays the crucifixion scene and other sculptures at the corner of Main Street and Scottsdale Road, said they are closing their gallery for good on Wednesday.
Harold and Katherine Lyon, proprietors of the gallery at 7191 E. Main St., said their decision to leave after more than a decade was hastened because of a disagreement over the terms of their lease and the public fight with the city about the art display.
"It’s a combination of things. You can only fight for things for so long," said Harold Lyon, 73. "We said, ‘It’s time to relax.’ "
Their departure officially ends the dispute between the Lyons and Scottsdale. City code enforcement officials last month cited the Lyons over "The Christ" and nine other sculptures that were placed in a public right of way outside the gallery.
Code enforcement originally gave the owners until this coming Monday to remove the art. But city management later backed down, saying they were considering softening the ordinance that outlaws all structures in public places.
"We’re still firmly in the mode of trying to determine whether this ordinance in place today is really something that balances the needs of the community, the downtown, the galleries and the art community," said Raun Keagy, Scottsdale’s director of neighborhood enforcement.
The dispute made national headlines as crews from Fox News and CNN came to Scottsdale to report on the controversy, which the Lyons suspected had more to do with the religious message of "The Christ" than a codeenforcement faux pas.
A Turlock, Calif., autodealership owner bought the sculpture for $10,000, and said Thursday he intends to put it in a high-traffic area of the city or donate it to a charity for a fund-raiser.
Ramin Jacob, 36, an Assyrian Christian from Iran, said he learned about it while a watching a CNN news report, and became bothered that Scottsdale officials wanted it removed. He said he hasn’t seen the sculpture in person.
"I didn’t buy it for material (purposes)," he said. "It was a total emotional purchase."
"The Christ" artist Bernard John Duke said the sale is bittersweet. The Lyons’ departure leaves Duke scrambling for a new location to display his other life-size sculptures.
"I’m thrilled with the attention ‘The Christ’ has received, and the attention that has been brought to our faith," Duke said. But he has no idea where he will now display his large pieces.
The Lyons said they will continue to run their business from their West Valley home in Estrella Mountain Ranch. Harold Lyon, a full-time artist since 1965, said he will work on new paintings, teach workshops and display his paintings at art shows.
He said he’ll miss working with the more than 30 artists who displayed their work at his gallery. Despite the dispute, Lyon said he’ll fondly remember his time in the downtown arts district.
"It’s wonderful that this street has developed into the greatest art market in the world," he said.
But he hopes the city changes its rules to give flexibility for gallery owners.
"(The sculptures) should be allowed to sit there because it is part of the art market," he said. "That is promoting Scottsdale."