The Unbearable Banishment: What not to do when admiring a priceless work of art

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

What not to do when admiring a priceless work of art

I try not to write posts that just regurgitate current events because I think it’s lazy, but simply I can’t resist this one.

While visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art with an adult education class, a woman stumbled and fell onto Picasso's The Actor causing a tear in the canvas. The painting was done in 1904 when Picasso was just 23 years old and is considered one of the most important works in the museum. It’s from Picasso’s rose period. Few paintings from that era survived and its size—4 feet by 6 feet—make it one of the biggest.

Dealers estimate its value at $100 million.

If I was visiting the Met and saw a woman fall onto a $100 million painting and rip it, I think I might wet myself laughing.

In 2006, Las Vegas casino impresario Steve Wynn was showing off his Picasso and accidentally poked a hole in it with his elbow. It was expertly repaired and it is said that if you didn’t know where to look, you’d never know it was damaged. Ironically Wynn’s Picasso has actually increased in value because of the story now attached to it.

16 Comments:

Blogger willow said...

Gosh, as many museums as I visit, and considering how stumbly I am, I'm lucky I haven't ripped any masterpieces.

I saw you over at Leah's blog. Your unique blog name and avatar lured me over.

January 26, 2010 at 8:44 AM  
Anonymous escapenova said...

The other day I went to The Phillips Collection here in DC, and have to say that I thought of your blog. I'm not usually one for art museums, but every once in a while you stand in front of a piece and it just blows you away.

On this visit, it was van Gogh's House at Auvers & Renoir's Luncheon of the Boating Party. I don't know why, but both managed to catch me off guard and I was simply mesmerized.

And to think, if it wasn't for a Groupon deal, I would have missed out (50% off admission). Anyway, that's my 2 cents...

January 26, 2010 at 9:02 AM  
Anonymous popomatic.jeff said...

I read this story the other day and couldn't believe it. I'm a clumsy person but can't understand how someone could have enough momentum in a museum for a stumble to hurl them into a painting with enough force to tear it.

January 26, 2010 at 9:47 AM  
Blogger Leah said...

I saw this on the news this morning and was so horrified because this is a fear of mine! To stumble clumsily into a great work of art and f-- it up, can you imagine the humiliation???? So anyway, the story gave me a real frisson of horror and sympathy combined...

I love the idea of a painting being worth more, not less, with the story attached to it. Though this Picasso is said to be worth less now by countless millions, perhaps given enough press, the value will increase again. I think crazy-mad cash value applied to art is sort of a silly concept anyway...

Okay, I've rambled on enough...

January 26, 2010 at 10:23 AM  
Blogger Scarlet Blue said...

I also have the giggles now after reading Popomatic Jeff.
Yep, a good story always adds value.
Sx

January 26, 2010 at 10:24 AM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Hello, Willow. Thanks for stopping over. It IS amazing that this sort of thing doesn't happen more often. Here's the story of where I got my avatar.

Esc: The Phillips Collection is the motherload, isn't it? It's nice to get swept up in a painting like that. It doesn't happen on a regular basis but when it does it's a treat.

Pop: I wish I had seen it happen. Do you?

Leah: See...adult education is a terrible thing.

Scarlet: Do you think he did it on purpose to increase its value? Not even Wynn is that devious.

January 26, 2010 at 11:40 AM  
Blogger Scarlet Blue said...

Ha ha... I don't know... is Wynn anything like Simon Cowell? I wouldn't put anything past Cowell..
Sx

January 26, 2010 at 11:49 AM  
Blogger Poindexter said...

it seems unusual that we don't hear more about mishaps at art museums, with the volumes of people that drift through on an average week. I'm sure that the woman who tripped and damaged that painting was completely horrified. The last news worthy item I seem to recall in a related note was the vandalism to the Liberty Bell. Remember that? Just a couple of years prior to that, I had personally visited Philadelphia (coincidentally to see the visiting Cezanne exhibit) and went to Independence Hall too. Back then you could actually touch the Bell and commune with the sense of historical importance. But now, no such luck. Hopefully art museums will not resort to having visitors stand at arm's length from paintings. I so much enjoy getting close enough to see the brush strokes and imagine that I can sense the energy from the paintings...

January 26, 2010 at 12:57 PM  
Blogger Pueblo girl said...

I was in the new Tate once when a child nearly knocked a small statue (Picasso again, I think)flying. It certainly wobbled while horrified parents rushed to the scene.
This could be your future...

January 26, 2010 at 4:06 PM  
OpenID daisyfae said...

my daughter had to leave a Chihuly show at a private gallery - it was a 'wine/cheese' event, and the glass was displayed on small podiums around increasingly drunken people -- and she couldn't stand the thought of seeing someone knock one over while reaching for a bit of crab rangoon...

January 26, 2010 at 5:50 PM  
OpenID thegnukid said...

"...showing off his Picasso..."

a euphemism? dirty boy... okay, well, i am for even thinking that...

January 26, 2010 at 6:28 PM  
Blogger Lori said...

When I saw this story of the mishap I thought of you - no, not because I thought it sounded like something you would do :), but because I know from your blog how you love the art in NYC, and how well you know the museums and works. I thought you might mention it here....

When we were at the Guggenheim last summer we witnessed an unpleasant argument between museum staff and parents of a young child who, security personnel insisted, touched a painting. The parents insisted their child was a little angel and would never.... They shouted insults to the red-faced but calm museum employee who asked them to control their child. The parents demanded to see the director so they could have him fired. And then they all hurried off to hash it out before the director..... As far as I know, the painting is fine. But those arrogant parents sure caused an ugly scene...

January 26, 2010 at 6:31 PM  
Blogger The Unbearable Banishment said...

Scarlet: Wynn and Cowell are twins born from different mothers.

Point: I remember on my first trip to London many, many years ago, I saw the Rosetta Stone in the British museum. It's edges have been rubbed smooth from people touching it. What's the urge to want to reach out and touch things? I sure had it! Have you ever stood close to a police officer and want to touch his gun?

PG: My 3-year old daughter got too close to a Degas statue in the Cleveland Museum of Art. It was a hair-raising moment. I love the Tate Modern. Wish I was there right now.

Daisy: Are you sure it wasn't performance art? It sounds like it.

Gnu: Actually, I'd argue that Wynn's collection is nothing more than a metaphor for his prowess.

Lori: Very young children do not belong in museums. Sorry. I did it one time and it was a terrible mistake. They don't care and can wreck things!

January 26, 2010 at 8:45 PM  
Anonymous PYT said...

Bwahaha. Imagine being known as the chick who tore Picasso's painting.

January 27, 2010 at 9:54 AM  
Blogger Please Don't Eat With Your Mouth Open said...

The first thing I thought was... that ain't no accident. What was she doing? Running from painting to painting?

I'd have thought they'd have a barrier round it or something.

January 27, 2010 at 10:20 PM  
Anonymous popomatic.jeff said...

UB - To answer your question from the 26th, I'm glad I wasn't there to see it. It sounds horrific.

January 29, 2010 at 11:13 AM  

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