Saturday, January 30, 2010

The Art of Rips, Tears and Repairs

Damage to a Picasso is just the latest museum-goer accident

The Metropolitan Museum of Art's Picasso painting "The Actor," which suffered damage last Friday, wasn't the first valuable piece of artwork harmed accidentally by a museum-goer or owner. Kids, dogs and adults who lost their balance have left their mark in recent years.

The Met painting was torn when a woman attending an adult-education class lost her balance and fell onto the large canvas. The New York museum is assessing a 6-inch tear, and the museum has said it should be repaired in time for a big Picasso show in April. (Though the Met won't confirm the value of the Picasso, or any of its art, some reports have valued "The Actor" at well over $100 million.)

Falling for Noguchi

In 2004, the Noguchi Museum in Queens lent a bronze sculpture to an exhibition hall in Sapporo, Japan, for a show of Noguchi's photos, drawings and sculptures. A museum patron wasn't feeling well and lost her balance, falling on the bronze sculpture, "Wakai-Hito," which she knocked over and damaged. The sculpture was on loan from a private collector, says Amy Hau, the museum's administrative director: "Accidents happen." Ms. Hau declined to estimate the price of the work but said it was of "significant value." It has since been fixed.

Wynn's Errant Elbow

In 2006, casino mogul Steve Wynn was showing off his famous Picasso painting, "Le Rêve," to friends when he accidentally poked a hole in the painting with his elbow. It was a costly mistake: He was just about to sell the piece to hedge-funder and art collector Steven Cohen for $139 million. The 6-inch rip in the canvas was eventually repaired, but the sale was called off.

Renaissance Crash

The Met had another recent accident: In 2008 a 15th-century terra-cotta relief sculpture by Italian artist Andrea della Robbia came loose from its wall mounts and fell onto a stone floor. It was damaged in the fall and is still undergoing repairs. The museum won't say how much the sculpture was worth, but in 2004 a terra-cotta relief sculpture by the artist sold for $206,000 at auction in Venice.

Climbing the 'Standing Woman'

The galleries of the Milwaukee Art Museum were the venue for a "Martinifest" in 2006, which included all-you-can-drink martinis for $30. Drunken revelers climbed, groped and vomited on a 7-foot-tall, bronze cast sculpture of a voluptuous female called "Standing Woman" by Gaston Lachaise. In December, an 18-inch bronze sculpture by the artist sold for $278,500 at auction.

From WSJ:

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