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September 4, 2014 7:11 AM   Subscribe

What happens when you break a sculpture in a gallery Gallery patron sits on bench in gallery, turns out bench was artwork, bench breaks. Ethical and financial panics ensue.

This is a great fear for those of us who tend to enter a fugue state when surrounded by overwhelmingly beautiful things: surely that weaving WANTS to be touched, I NEED to know what that marble sculpture feels like, and that Ming Dynasty footstool looks SO comfortable right now...

More cringeworthy situations:

Nora Ephron was on hand when Steve Wynn's stuck his elbow through a Picasso.

Man leans over to tie shoelace, trips, shatters 3 Qing Dynasty vases. Man is very sorry.

Woman taking art class at the Met accidentally rips a Picasso. No word on whether or not she failed the class.
posted by Elly Vortex (106 comments total) 36 users marked this as a favorite

 
It's still art and I wouldn't worry. Sometimes damage improves a work. The Venus De Milo wouldn't be diddly if she had her arms, now would she?
posted by Renoroc at 7:14 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I hate to blame the victim, but it was dressed as a bench
posted by thelonius at 7:17 AM on September 4 [97 favorites]


Ceci n'est pas une bench.
posted by phunniemee at 7:19 AM on September 4 [36 favorites]


I won't mention names, because he's now a mefite, but our (then) three-year-old son once got away from us in the Met, climbed a few stairs to a beckoning door, and slammed into a piece of trompe-l'œil at top speed. Luckily, neither he nor the artwork were hurt. But it goes to show how easily this sort of thing can happen.
posted by ubiquity at 7:22 AM on September 4 [49 favorites]


slammed into a piece of trompe-l'œil at top speed.

This is some fucking Wile E Coyote shit and I salute your son!
posted by Greg Nog at 7:24 AM on September 4 [151 favorites]


A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?
posted by MrMoonPie at 7:25 AM on September 4 [8 favorites]


Someone sat on something that looks like something you sit on and that was placed in a place where you expect things for sitting? The museum's lucky a patron wasn't injured when it broke. That would be the most complicated premises liability case ever.
posted by resurrexit at 7:26 AM on September 4 [23 favorites]


Don't want people to sit down on something, don't give them the opportunity to. Even though we're fond of ascribing personhood and autonomy of bodily self to everything under the sun except women, the artist should have understood that a thing shaped like a bench in the middle if a gallery with no ropes around it would get sat on. I rule in favor of the defendant. *bangs gavel*
posted by bleep at 7:27 AM on September 4 [31 favorites]


Why on Earth would you expect people to know that the bench wasn't a bench? You can't sell a tube of toothpaste unless you make sure it's marked 'not for use as infant formula'. If a sign saying 'please don't sit on the artwork, it's not a bench' would spoil the effect, then the responsibility is entirely the gallery's.
posted by Sing Or Swim at 7:27 AM on September 4 [9 favorites]


Every summer, an artists' group sets up a mini-golf course on New York's Governors Island. Last year a friend and I were out there, and tried that year's course.

At some point we were at a hole where the obstacle was made out of weird piles of chips of wood, with a fence-ish sort of thing made of more scrap wood around the whole thing. We were both stepping awkwardly around the woodpiles as we made our shots, trying to find a good stance; and at some point, as I was trying to find a place to stand on the thing, I stumbled a bit and stepped on one of the piles.

And half of it broke off.

My friend and I looked at it, then looked at each other. And then I wordlessly picked up the piece of wood I'd knocked off and put it back into place, just resting it there, and we silently picked up our balls and walked off to the next hole, neither of us speaking about the incident until this moment right now.

.....The damn thing was probably getting rained on all summer anyway. I still felt guilty.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:27 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


My own "ohshit" moment came while at a museum in Herculaneum. One of my classmates, tired after a long day of walking through the ruins, mindlessly leaned against a sarcophagus set atop a one-foot-tall podium in the center of the room. It shifted about two inches on its podium, but didn't fall off. I think that she and I were the only ones who noticed the scraping sound and saw it move. We were both mortified and just sort of quietly sidled out of the room and never spoke of it again.
posted by Elly Vortex at 7:28 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


The When You Work at a Museum tumblr is full of stories like these (and other entertaining indignities)
posted by Sweetie Darling at 7:28 AM on September 4 [17 favorites]


A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?

I think the post is a little piece of performance art. While she wants to have a blog post, she doesn't actually want to be contacted by the gallery, so the gallery, the artist, and the work are omitted, so as not to come up in a google search.

I can't say I blame her, but I guess I wouldn't write the post in that case.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:29 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


If a sign saying 'please don't sit on the artwork, it's not a bench' would spoil the effect, then the responsibility is entirely the gallery's.

I have a feeling that since her husband knew it was a bench, that such a sign was there for him to have ascertained that fact.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 7:29 AM on September 4


A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?

"Garden" by Vermont-based early American inspired artist Ethan Allen. You should see his "this is not actually a chaise longue" series!
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


I feel for them. Truly, I do.
posted by thivaia at 7:33 AM on September 4 [9 favorites]


she doesn't actually want to be contacted by the gallery, so the gallery, the artist, and the work are omitted, so as not to come up in a google search.

On further consideration, it may also be a kindness to the gallery, because I expect it really is the gallery's fault that this happened.

There but for the grace of god go we all.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 7:33 AM on September 4


Museums make me nervous for this very reason. I am a not a graceful person, but I could probably avoid damaging a piece hanging on a wall. Something on a podium in the middle of a room...not so much.

I wish we'd just invent force fields already so we could protect them. Or put them in locked rooms and have the exhibits be extremely realistic holograms.
posted by emjaybee at 7:33 AM on September 4


The most interesting part of that story to me was her use of the word "chidden." I'm not sure I've ever seen that past participle of "chide" before. I think I would have gone with "chided." But then, I'm not a reckless art breaker, either.
posted by Pater Aletheias at 7:34 AM on September 4 [14 favorites]


"Chode."
posted by griphus at 7:36 AM on September 4 [44 favorites]


Accidents happen. The museum's lawyer probably informed them of the law around negligence, the cost of litigation, and the probability of recovery - tied nicely in an insurance policy bow as an alternative. The first mistake was not protecting the work adequately, the second would be trying to sue.
posted by Muddler at 7:38 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


When my son was little we took him to the Decordova Museum in Lincoln, MA to look at the sculptures and get him all cultured 'n' shit*. After walking around we went indoors and looked at some of the paintings. At one point I was holding him a bit too close to a painting and he punched it. The canvas bent an inch or two but luckily he didn't put a hole in it. A whole bunch of people saw me and gave me a look like "You are only slightly better at parenting than William H. Macy in Shameless."

Since then whenever I held him in front of art I made sure I was out of arm's reach.

*it totally worked, he's a genius at Minecraft and can fart like nobody's business.
posted by bondcliff at 7:39 AM on September 4 [17 favorites]


Renoroc: "The Venus De Milo wouldn't be diddly if she had her arms, now would she?"

No, but she might be diddlin'.
posted by chavenet at 7:40 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Don't they have insurance for this sort of thing?
posted by freakazoid at 7:46 AM on September 4


A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?

I, too, have a semi-prurient interest in seeing the art in question. Personally, I don't make a habit of simply backing up until my legs hit something, then sitting on that thing, but I think I would be especially unlikely to do so in a museum.
posted by ftm at 7:47 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


I'm tall and broad shouldered. Some galleries, and all antiques stores, are sized for dainty little people, and being in those tightly packed spaces full of expensive stuff can be stressful.
posted by Dip Flash at 7:50 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


See, I thought the second mistake was owning up.
posted by glasseyes at 7:50 AM on September 4


Tangentially related story from my hometown.
posted by jangie at 7:52 AM on September 4


At one point I was holding him a bit too close to a painting and he punched it.

"Use your words," he remembers his father telling him as he pens his latest vehement takedown of the fine arts establishment for the Daily Beast.
posted by griphus at 7:53 AM on September 4 [28 favorites]


it may also be a kindness to the gallery, because I expect it really is the gallery's fault that this happened.

I really can't think of the last time I was in a gallery or museum and there wasn't a staff member posted within reprimanding distance of anyplace someone could potentially approach an expensive sculpture. (Or that a sculpture wasn't surrounded by black tape on the floor or even a motion alarm.)
posted by psoas at 7:53 AM on September 4


Actually, if she had her arms, the Venus de Milo would most likely be spinning thread with a drop spindle, given her posture and musculature.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 7:58 AM on September 4 [32 favorites]


I can see how this could easily happen, especially if only a placard marked the exhibit.

Possibly with something like these.
posted by misha at 8:02 AM on September 4


...Or, wow, nearly this artist's entire body of work, looks like.
posted by misha at 8:08 AM on September 4


Related: The art restoration of the Jesus fresco in Spain, just because it always gives me a laugh.
posted by dances_with_sneetches at 8:08 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Man leans over to tie shoelace, trips, shatters 3 Qing Dynasty vases. Man is very sorry.

I live pretty close to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the end of that story was: the guy pretty much jumped into the irreplaceable Ming vases on purpose. Read his account if you like, and see if he comes across as anything other than a massive tosser who broke the stuff for kicks.
posted by The River Ivel at 8:09 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


I work in a museum. I am not sure how much I am at liberty to say, but...I've seen some shit. Terrible things. I will also say that conservators can do things that are awfully close to magic.

I would also like to take this opportunity to say this:


ಠ_ಠ


AND I HAVE VERY GOOD REASONS.
posted by louche mustachio at 8:10 AM on September 4 [24 favorites]


It's not broken, it's just been rendered more arty is all.
posted by Invisible Green Time-Lapse Peloton at 8:15 AM on September 4


A municipal sculpture at a bus stop in my city - perdurable and surprisingly comfy.
posted by Kronos_to_Earth at 8:15 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


In my early years as an AV Tech we were setting up an event for the Discovery Channel at a little place called Vizcaya in Miami FL. I spent the day running cable along the walls of a couple banquet rooms for the gear we were setting up for that evenings event. Didn't find out until a couple of hours into the gig that the 5' tall vases that lined the walls and corners of every room were priceless urns from Italy, at which point I switched my method of tossing the 100' cables from one end of the room to the other, to gingerly placing them around said vessels.
posted by HappyHippo at 8:19 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


It's not broken, it's just been rendered more arty is all.

Reminds me of comic book guy.
posted by arcticseal at 8:20 AM on September 4


Thank you for that link, Sweetie Darling. It led me to this video about Visionary Farts at the American visionary Art Museum", which, on top of the post about cosmic galactic structures, has made today a true treat of learning for me.
posted by Devonian at 8:21 AM on September 4


every negligence case amounts to four things, duty of care, breach of duty, proximate cause, and damages. i'd much rather have the patron's side of this case, than the gallery's.
posted by bruce at 8:35 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


They should do this every day. But pretty soon it wouldn't be interesting any more.
posted by sneebler at 8:37 AM on September 4


I was once yelled at by a curator for standing on a torn open garbage bag that was in the middle of the gallery at an opening full of people. I thought he was joking.Turns out it was art. As a visual artist I will happily say, Gedi Sibony, your work is trash.
posted by misterpatrick at 8:42 AM on September 4


misterpatrick, the exact opposite scenario happened to me once at MoMA - I was wandering in the galleries, and in one room I stopped to examine a structure made of plain boards and some plastic tarp that was affixed to the wall. It took me a good minute to figure out that someone was just re-patching the wall itself and had gone to lunch.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 8:45 AM on September 4 [42 favorites]


One man's art is another man's rubbish.
posted by CheeseDigestsAll at 8:52 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Isn't this why we set things in acrylic??
posted by oceanjesse at 9:00 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I nearly knocked over a sculpture in a museum a couple weeks ago. I was looking at a painting and backed into it. I felt like Big Ed in Twin Peaks, "Gosh, you left it right there in the middle of the floor."
posted by persona au gratin at 9:04 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Is there some reason a sculpture shaped like a bench can't be placed in the middle of a bunch of sculptures and benches? Or does that confuse you?
posted by roystgnr at 9:12 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


Don't they have insurance for this sort of thing? Often, yes. But in addition to driving up premiums it really can blow a sale, fray a relationship with an artist* or infuriate a lender to have an artwork damaged, and a gallery's main currency is relationships.

Damage is a funny issue in contemporary art, where objects are often constructed eccentrically. "Inherent vice" is an insurance concept that basically means the object in question was built so poorly that damage is almost inevitable. In any event, a smudge or a chip in an artwork sometimes triggers a panicked call to a conservator. Sometimes the artwork is shipped back to the studio for the artist to fix. Sometimes it's quietly handled in-house. Usually depends on the value and provenance of the work.

* In extreme cases, some artists will actually disavow a piece if it gets damaged, both for artistic reasons and to protect the value of undamaged work.
posted by ducky l'orange at 9:15 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


I stumbled toward the reception desk and told an employee that I was sorry, but I had accidentally broken one of the sculptures in the next room. Her eyebrows rose; I described the damage. She said, “Thank you for telling me.” I repeated, “I’m very, very sorry.”

I bet her lawyer must love her.
posted by Nevin at 9:18 AM on September 4


In related news, the museum is now considering whether to move Duchamp's "Fountain" out of the men's room.
posted by TheSecretDecoderRing at 9:26 AM on September 4 [20 favorites]


What if the damage actually increased the value of the piece? Would the gallery owe her money?
posted by Poldo at 9:28 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


I was wandering in the galleries, and in one room I stopped to examine a structure made of plain boards and some plastic tarp that was affixed to the wall. It took me a good minute to figure out that someone was just re-patching the wall itself and had gone to lunch.


I would absolutely have told you that was art, and happily provided the information from the "missing" didactic.


Damage is a funny issue in contemporary art, where objects are often constructed eccentrically.


HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA











ಠ_ಠ
posted by louche mustachio at 9:28 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Maybe that's why she never got a call.
posted by Poldo at 9:29 AM on September 4


Like louche mustachio, I work at a museum. Also like louche mustachio:











ಠ_ಠ

Looking at you, drunk football fans after a game walking past perfectly harmless sculpture. Looking. At. You.
posted by PussKillian at 9:35 AM on September 4 [5 favorites]


An ex-gf still has a few pieces of paper she took home from an art piece in the Hirschhorn that was basically a machine on the ceiling of the room that sprayed pieces of colored paper everywhere while you walked around. I'm still not quite sure if that was a crime or participating in the piece.
posted by empath at 9:45 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Sometimes it's the artist's intent to trap art 'touchers', so go for it, the artist probably intends for you to break stuff.
posted by AzraelBrown at 9:49 AM on September 4


There actually was an art piece I saw where you were supposed to take things - Untitled (Portrait of Ross in L.A.). The piece was 175 pounds of hard candy in a pile in the corner, and visitors were encouraged to help themselves.

It was a tribute to the artists' friend who had died of an AIDS-related illness in 1991; the idea was that the dwindling pile of candy represented his dwindling weight in the months leading to his death, and the sweetness of the candy was...I don't know, he was a sweet guy?

I actually felt a little uneasy taking a piece, even knowing I was supposed to - I read that and thought "oh, crap, now it'd feel like I'm killing the guy or something."

Later in the same museum there was an installation that was all about sound - the artist had set up a floor with four different surfaces on it (dried leaves, sand, pebbles, and gravel, or something like that) and encouraged people to walk on them. There were microphones embedded under each surface so you could hear your footsteps as you walked on leaves or pebbles or whatever, and the sounds themselves were the exhibit, rather than the stuff you were walking on.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 9:55 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


From The River Ivel's link re the man who tripped over his shoelace and smashed three Qing Dynasty vases while falling down a staircase:

When I walked out of the museum after it happened, I forgot all about it.
posted by TWinbrook8 at 9:56 AM on September 4


Yeah, Felix Gonzalez-Torres wanted you to interact with the art and take a piece of candy. I particularly like his piece Baci - an Italian version of the chocolate "kiss" (and far superior, because good chocolate plus quote about love plus hazelnut). In one of my earliest exposures to this type of artwork (The book Art On the Edge...And Over), there was a discussion that part of the meaning inherent in the piece is "will you accept a kiss from a gay man?"
posted by PussKillian at 10:06 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Pics or it didn't happen.
posted by Ratio at 10:07 AM on September 4


While working at MoMA, my favorite "whoops" was when a visitor decided he really wanted to know how Berlin smelled. While no one was looking, he leaped to press the atomizer. It fell, shattered, and dispersed everlasting urban funk through the gallery.
posted by aerofuturist dance at 10:25 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


The absence of any pictures or information about the artist or the artwork is irritating me more than it probably should.
posted by Rhaomi at 10:26 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


>A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?

I think the post is a little piece of performance art. While she wants to have a blog post, she doesn't actually want to be contacted by the gallery, so the gallery, the artist, and the work are omitted, so as not to come up in a google search.


Her whole defense rests on the artwork really looking like a bench, I think she doesn't want anybody to find out it actually looked like this
posted by anazgnos at 10:32 AM on September 4 [3 favorites]


Joseph Beuys never had this problem.
posted by univac at 10:40 AM on September 4


We were at the Corning Museum of Glass a couple of weeks ago, and as we were wandering through their vast and amazing collection, some kid (not mine) threw a frisbee.

Threw a frisbee. In a glass museum. The mind boggles.
posted by briank at 10:43 AM on September 4 [10 favorites]


We went to the Yoko Ono retrospective at the Guggenheim Bilbao a few months ago, and they have a piece where you climb a ladder and look at something written on the ceiling with a magnifying glass. (Somewhat famous for how Yoko met Lennon.) Or at least, you used to climb it. Photo. You can see that it's been transformed from an interactive piece to a piece you observe from a distance behind a line marked on the floor. I can understand the practicality of that, but it seems to fundamentally change the artwork.
posted by smackfu at 10:44 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


"Man leans over to tie shoelace, trips, shatters 3 Qing Dynasty vases. Man is very sorry."


The River Ivel: I live pretty close to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the end of that story was: the guy pretty much jumped into the irreplaceable Ming vases on purpose. Read his account if you like, and see if he comes across as anything other than a massive tosser who broke the stuff for kicks.

The River Ivel,
I honestly haven't a clue how you would reach that opinion based on the account you linked?
What am I missing?!
posted by Jody Tresidder at 10:52 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I bet her lawyer must love her.

Dunno how her lawyer feels about her, but as a fellow member of society I salute her for stepping up to acknowledge the results of her actions.
posted by Lexica at 10:56 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


There was a sculpture in Houston, at the Contemporary Art Museum, in 1991. Music on a Long Thin Wire by Alvin Lucier. A single wire stretched some 300 feet across the gallery. With a guitar pickup and amplifier at one end, to make music out of the subtle vibrations and air currents of the room. Only every few minutes some visitor would blunder into it sending the wire jangling and vibrating completely out of control, violently loudly. It was marvelous.
posted by Nelson at 11:04 AM on September 4 [2 favorites]


What am I missing?!

That every word in the piece is about him? It reads like the words of a narcissist.

The man has / had mental health problems - I believe he was convicted of assault a year or two later and had treatment under a supervision order.
posted by pharm at 11:07 AM on September 4


What am I missing?!

I remember it at the time. There was CCTV footage that made the accident appear very contrived, and he was arrested and questioned by police. This article e.g. reveals more of his tosserdom.
posted by Flashman at 11:07 AM on September 4


Oh look, a urinal!
posted by uosuaq at 11:10 AM on September 4 [6 favorites]


It was one of two pale, rectangular sculptures in the gallery. They were only suggestive of museum benches.

I'm curious as to what they look like too, but it doesn't actually sound like they looked like bog standard benches. (I am glad she told them about the damage-- better the damage you know then the wine cup you find abandoned on a sculpture later, or the teeth pulled out from a skull, or anything like that.)
posted by jetlagaddict at 11:12 AM on September 4


smackfu, you've reminded me of a delightful hour spent at New York's Guggenheim a few years back, also on the occasion of a Yoko Ono retrospective. I was hanging out by her Voice Piece for Soprano installation, and it was absolutely wonderful people-watching, seeing all the different people who gradually summoned up the courage to get up and scream into the microphone. Some people only let out meek little "eeeeeee!"s, and then you'd get the most unlikely nebbishy little guy who'd come up and unleash this Viking roar of "WAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA!" After just watching all of that for an hour, I finally got up and did a full-on Roger Daltrey "YEAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHH" myself.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 11:14 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Dunno how her lawyer feels about her, but as a fellow member of society I salute her for stepping up to acknowledge the results of her actions.

In our litigious age, it is better to first lawyer up, and then 'fess up.
posted by Nevin at 11:18 AM on September 4


A picture of the artwork, or even its name or the name of the artist, would be nice. Am I missing it?

She's the artist! She should sue for attribution and droit de suite.

"Broken Bench", 2014
Alison Kinney

Materials: artwork, bum

"The intersection of art and life has been thematically explored by the artist's unique 'bum first' approach. The radical realignment of value inlights both the meaning of 'tired legs' and 'watch it, you're sitting on a million dollars worth of art there!'. While any person could simply sit on a piece of art and break it, Kinney recontextualizes sitting and breaking as subversive acts within the modern repertoire of existence."
posted by Thing at 11:22 AM on September 4 [7 favorites]


When I worked at the MoMA I heard the story of a well-intentioned VIP donor swatting a fly during an exhibition preview.
posted by doift at 11:42 AM on September 4 [1 favorite]


Joseph Beuys never had this problem.

"But it looked just like all the rest of the gallery's regular coyotes! How was I supposed to know I wasn't allowed to hug that one?"
posted by RogerB at 11:57 AM on September 4 [4 favorites]


I live pretty close to the Fitzwilliam Museum, and the end of that story was: the guy pretty much jumped into the irreplaceable Ming vases on purpose. Read his account if you like, and see if he comes across as anything other than a massive tosser who broke the stuff for kicks.

I am usually opposed to the death penalty but dang.

I too have mistaken things for art that were not. Once I walked down a street on our campus and there were little white bags filled with sand (about beanbag size) lining the sidewalk. I was baffled and had worked up an elaborate explanation of the piece in my head until I encountered the road crew who were placing them to do something I still don't understand.

It made more sense as art, so I choose to believe the road crew was also part of the installation.
posted by winna at 12:15 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


I won't mention names, because he's now a mefite, but our (then) three-year-old son once got away from us in the Met, climbed a few stairs to a beckoning door, and slammed into a piece of trompe-l'œil at top speed. Luckily, neither he nor the artwork were hurt. But it goes to show how easily this sort of thing can happen.
posted by ubiquity at 10:22 AM on September 4 [31 favorites +] [!]

This is some fucking Wile E Coyote shit and I salute your son!
posted by Greg Nog at 10:24 AM on September 4 [101 favorites +] [!]


This is probably the first time I learned something about my childhood from the Popular Favorites page.
posted by grouse at 1:45 PM on September 4 [43 favorites]


This is why the Seattle Art Museum's outdoor Olympic Sculpture Park is full of DO NOT TOUCH signs.
Touching harms the art. Please do not touch or climb on the sculptures.
posted by Revvy at 2:27 PM on September 4


little white bags filled with sand (about beanbag size) ... the road crew were placing them to do something I still don't understand.

Were they using them to weigh down signs?

This is probably the first time I learned something about my childhood from the Popular Favorites page.

So now you know why it feels as if you're going to get hit by a freight train every time you stand with your back to a rockface, right?
posted by ambrosen at 2:36 PM on September 4


When I was 5 or 6, a girl brought in a fancy drum and a tomahawk for show and tell. After she was done presenting, I banged on the drum using the tomahawk, just like I saw in cartoons.

Ripped right through the drumhead and she cried all day. Worst drumstick I've ever used.
posted by GreyboxHero at 2:40 PM on September 4


I love the Steve Wynn story. He rips the painting the day after he agreed to sell it for $139M, the record price for any painting at that time. The painting was restored and then 8 years later, the same buyer paid $155M for it. Wynn cried all the way to the bank.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:48 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


Joseph Beuys never had this problem.

Oh yes he did.
posted by charlie don't surf at 2:56 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


In related news, the museum is now considering whether to move Duchamp's "Fountain" out of the men's room.

duchamp would have laughed his ass off
posted by pyramid termite at 2:58 PM on September 4 [2 favorites]


funny (maybe not) that she had contemplated giving a Chinese name as fake identification to avoid penalty. I am pretty sure that if my brown-Asian-skinned self accidentally broke a piece of art I would get a hell of a lot more scrutiny and hassle for it.
posted by divabat at 3:52 PM on September 4


Ok, imagine this: in the centre of the room, there's a handsomely varnished walnut plinth, and on it a nice vase filled with unglazed ceramic roses. Only the artist knows how brittle they are. On each side of the plinth is a large, clearly lettered sign reading, "Please Do Not Touch". Around the edge of the vase are tiny jets, ready to deliver a blast of tear gas at anyone who's finger touches a rose. But it's interactive art! At least until people become suspicious about the broken petals on the floor.
posted by sneebler at 4:07 PM on September 4


This summer, the Glimmerglass Festival's art installation was a series of benches around the grounds. Most of the audience members I saw there wouldn't sit on them.
posted by shiny blue object at 4:13 PM on September 4


Divabat, she does say that she is Korean in the article.
posted by jetlagaddict at 4:28 PM on September 4


I actually backed up into the oldest church bell in Iceland in a museum last week. It is ensconsed in and projects through both sides of an internal wall, so my usual strategy of remaining two inches from the nearest wall was to no avail. I felt a light pressure on my arm and immediately froze in terror. Dip Flash is right - those places are built for dainty little people.

Poldo: What if the damage actually increased the value of the piece? Would the gallery owe her money?

This is a very interesting question to me (or the related question, at least, of whether the gallery could maintain a claim for damages against her.) I have a discarded draft of a test question here along similar lines involving a hypothetical famous and reclusive graffiti artist defacing an original Kinkade.
posted by curious.jp at 4:34 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


jetlagaddict: huh, I must have missed that!
posted by divabat at 4:53 PM on September 4


Museum Visitor Breaks Ming Dynasty Chair
OTHER NEWS TO NOTE - MIDWEST
June 6, 2000
MINNEAPOLIS -- A museum visitor looking for a place to rest his feet picked an expensive place to sit. The man failed to heed a do-not-touch sign Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and sat on a 16th-century Ming Dynasty chair, breaking its horseshoe-shaped back in three places. Officials said the chair, worth six figures, can be repaired. ``We were very fortunate -- the chair backing broke on old break lines,'' said Evan Maurer, museum director. ``It's been broken before.'' No charges will be filed against the visitor, whose name was not released.</em


"This has happened before"

posted by librosegretti at 4:56 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


I made a sculpture intended to be sat upon. I was worried that people would be afraid to sit on it.

Luckily, it's on a college campus. Last time I went to check up on it, it was surrounded by wine corks and cigarette butts. I think it'll do fine.
posted by moonmilk at 4:56 PM on September 4 [5 favorites]


I looooove Nora's telling of the Wynn story. I would have done the same.
posted by jenfullmoon at 10:40 PM on September 4 [1 favorite]


The man failed to heed a do-not-touch sign Sunday at the Minneapolis Institute of Arts and sat on a 16th-century Ming Dynasty chair, breaking its horseshoe-shaped back in three places.

Seriously can we bring back public flogging.
posted by winna at 12:57 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I really like that Wynn's first thought in the charming Ephron story was "Thank God it was me". That just strikes me as ineffably classy.
posted by forgetful snow at 6:22 AM on September 5 [3 favorites]


This is why I don't like supercars.

I was t-boned by a little old lady in a Honda Pilot - it totalled my car completely. She wasn't paying enough attention as she pulled out of an intersection, and didn't even notice my mini-SUV tootling along at 50mph (the speed limit, which is too high for this stretch of road.)

We pulled off the road, I made sure she wasn't hurt, and calmed her down a bit - this was her first accident in her entire adult life of driving, and was being really hard on herself for wrecking two cars. "Well, that's what we have insurance for!" I told her. And her insurer was very speedy and helpful in getting me the full blue-book value of my car, around $14k.

Well, I have a pretty good insurance policy, but I'm only covered for $100,000 in vehicular damage. It's probably way more than most policies cover.

What if I also have a momentary slip in concentration, and t-bone a brand new Aston Martin, or Lamborghini, or god fucking forbid, a Bugatti? These cars start at a quarter mil, and wind up at over a million bucks for the Bug - that's the showroom price, and these things (except the Bug) depreciate something like 40% once the front wheels leave the lot, but still - it's way over my coverage. So the insurance company pays for the repair/replacement of the billionaire's toy under UIM, and then goes after my house and a thick slice of my wages forever.

I commute daily on a very congested set of roads that's the main artery between Newport, RI and points north (Boston) and south (NYC) and west (Westerly, RI, where there is an immensely wealthy enclave. During the summer, I'll see two or three a day - Ferraris, Rolls, even one of those 6x6 AMG Mercedes SUVs, and I don't even think they're road legal here.

On the one hand, my fault if I was negligent - but on the other, who hasn't had a moment of inattention behind the wheel? Say I was driving a supercar instead of a Kia suv at the time - should that little old lady be forced to give up a chunk of her retirement savings because I wanted the world to tell at a glance I was a rich asshole with my choice of car? At what point should society step in to protect the average Joe from the consequences of a simple mistake, because the property owner is displaying or operating exorbitantly priced items where there is a high probability of damage occurring due to everyday mishaps?
posted by Slap*Happy at 8:41 AM on September 5


Slap*Happy, isn't that what umbrella policies are for?
posted by misha at 8:46 AM on September 5 [1 favorite]


I thought they just raised your premiums after something like that?
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 8:47 AM on September 5


Slap*Happy, any owner of a supercar who wishes to avoid such headaches probably has a special sort of insurance policy with a rider for un(der)insured drivers, and would thus file the claim with his or her own insurer first. That insurer would likely subrogate back to yours to the limit of your policy, but it wouldn't be worth their time or money to go after you in any meaningful way.

The other option there would be that the supercar owner would "self insure" for the overage if such a policy weren't cost-effective or available for other reasons (e.g. if the owner/driver is largely uninsurable for other reasons like a previous history of crashing supercars, or if the car is so rare as to defy underwriting). In that case, while a vengeful driver might be angry enough to want to go after you, his or her lawyers would probably point out the attorney fees alone would be more than enough to send you into bankruptcy, negating the point of such a lawsuit.

TL/DR: Insurance policies for items of especially high value aren't like the normal ones, and driving you into bankruptcy wouldn't be worth the effort or expense.
posted by fedward at 10:12 AM on September 5


I actually managed to stumble into an installation once. It was called "the medium is the message". It was just a pile of metal pipes on the ground. CLATTER CLANG CRASH
The security guy whipped around and glared. We ran. As we hid behind a wall, my friend said, snorting with laughter, "now you changed the message!"
posted by Omnomnom at 1:49 PM on September 5


I hate to blame the victim, but it was dressed as a bench

I keep seeing this pop up in my Feedly feed, and every time, I get this image of Samuel L. Jackson pointing a gun in my face and yelling "DOES. IT. LOOK. LIKE. A. BENCH?!"
posted by The World Famous at 4:54 PM on September 9


Actually, if she had her arms, the Venus de Milo would most likely be spinning thread with a drop spindle, given her posture and musculature. catching Tom Verlaine.
posted by Sys Rq at 4:18 PM on September 10


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