Allow me to recount a familiar scenario: you’re in a store with your mum, walking through the chinaware aisle where your mother repeatedly warns you to be careful and to not break anything. But you’re a kid, and a misbehaved one at that, so you carry on being the child equivalent of a tornado and inevitably, you break something. After you finish wincing at the sound of the glass shattering explosively, you come to the horrible realisation that you’re going to have to save up months and months of pocket money to afford to pay for whatever you broke. Whilst we thankfully left moments like those behind as we ascended to adulthood, we’re all victims of our own clumsiness sometimes. But in the majority of cases we’re able to get away by profusely apologising when we accidentally damage something, and even if the store operates a hardline, “break it, buy it” policy, it’s rare that it’s going to amount to much. Even rarer, however, is that you break something that is utterly and unequivocally irreplaceable.
That’s exactly what either the most unlucky (or just plain foolish) person did when she ruined $200,000 of artwork attempting to get the perfect selfie at an exhibit.
A selfie gone wrong was responsible for $200,000 worth of damage when a woman knocked over a display whilst attempting to get the perfect snap.
Hong Kong based, British multimedia artist, Simon Birch had been displaying one of his immersive exhibitions at pop-up gallery, 14th Factory in Los Angeles. A selection of crowns on white platforms of varying heights were placed directly next to each other and this apparently made them the perfect candidates to take a tumble.
A video of the accident was uploaded to YouTube on Thursday and it has now garnered over 300,000 views:
Security cameras captured a woman (ill-advisedly) crouching in front of the rows of pedestals to take a selfie. She somehow manages to lose her balance and knocks over the pedestal behind her, this then creates a domino effect, sending around 10 platforms tumbling and damages the artwork in the process.
The gallery has announced that three sculptures were “permanently damaged’ in the accident.
The artist, Simon Birch, however, has taken a rather positive approach to the debacle. Speaking to the New York Times, he expressed the sentiment that the accident could add extra levels of meaning and depth to the crowns:
“We trust people […] Crowns are fragile things. They are symbols of power. Perhaps it’s ironic and meaningful that they fell.”
This woman is not the only person to have destroyed or damaged priceless artwork. In 2016 a tourist visiting Lisbon decided to climb a train station to take a selfie with the statue of Dom Sebastiao, the 16th-century king of Portugal, which caused the statue to fall and shatter. The student who was in his 20’s was arrested and charged with destruction of public property.
Whilst established institutions such as museums and galleries have been slow to tap into the social-media revolution, in recent years they have really attempted to heighten their presence on multiple platforms. A key component of this has certainly been to encourage users to share their experiences online. However, I doubt that knocking over hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of art was exactly the result that this one gallery was looking for.