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9 Shocking Times People Destroyed Art While Taking Selfies

A look back at some of the most catastrophic selfie fails in modern memory…

As we take a moment to look back on the past year, we couldn’t help but notice that it was strewn with the shards of priceless art—all knocked over by clumsy tourists angling for better selfies.

We rounded up the most tragic cases in recent memory, ranking them on a scale of one to five based on the incident’s shock factor, public visibility, age of the victimized art, and the potential for its restoration.

Here’s to a New Year with less damaged art.

 

‘They Went Down Like Dominoes’ 

Background: At the pop-up gallery 14th Factory in Los Angeles a selfie taker knocked down almost an entire installation with such jaw-dropping precision you couldn’t have planned it. There’s even a YouTube video capturing the entire incident, which has racked up more than seven million views.

Victim: The installation consisted of a room filled with white pedestals, set at varying heights, each with a different sculpture of a crown resting on top.

Status Report: According to Simon Birch, who founded the 14th Factory, the selfie fail cost upwards of $200,000 in damages.

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️

Portugal’s Pain

Background: In May 2016, just after midnight at Lisbon’s Rossio train station, a 24-year-old man climbed up the decorative pedestal where a 126-year-old statue was perched, knocking the entire figure to the ground, whereupon it shattered.

Victim: A statue of Dom Sebastiao, the Portuguese king who reigned in the 16th century.

Status Report: As of this month, a Portuguese tourism website takes notice of the missing statue and advises nevertheless, “Even though there is no statue don’t be tempted for a photo here!”

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️⚠️ 

 

Clumsy Student Meets Drunken Satyr

Background: In March 2014, a student visiting the Academy of Fine Arts of Brera in Milan jumped on a 19th-century statue’s lap in an attempt to capture the photo, breaking its leg in the process.

Victim: The Drunken Satyr or Barberini Faun, (ca. 19th century, copy)

Status Report: As the pictures show, the Faun would’ve needed serious surgical intervention to regain the use of his limb. Luckily, the now amputated sculpture was a 19th-century copy of the original Hellenistic-era piece.

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️ 

 

They Came in Like a Wrecking Ball

Background: A quartet of young women visiting the Main Avenue Cultural Center in the Urals city of Yekaterinburg, Russia, were vying to show off their best sides in a selfie when they bumped into a temporary wall, which crashed into works of art by Salvador Dali and Francisco Goya.

Victim: A work from Francisco Goya’s “Los Caprichos” series and Salvador Dali’s corresponding Surrealist riff on the series.

Status Report: The show didn’t close after the reckless visitors left, but both works suffered broken frames.

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️

 

Don’t Stand So Close to Me

Background: A visitor to Portugal’s National Museum of Ancient Art in November 2016 was trying to get a good shot of a different work, when he edged a little too close to an 18th century statue, and hip-checked it straight onto the ground.

Victim: An 18th century painted statue of the Archangel Saint Michael

Status Report: At the time of the incident, deputy museum director Jose Alberto Seabra Carvalho said that “the statue is very affected in the wings, in one arm and mantle. The damage is severe but reversible.”

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️

 

A Herculean Mishap

Background: In 2015, two selfie seekers touring the Italian city of Cremona knocked off the crown atop an 18th-century marble statue depicting Hercules and the city’s coat of arms. The work had been erected under the portico of Loggia dei Militi since 1962.

Victim: Statue of the Two Hercules (circa 1700).

Status Report: The status of this particular work is unknown.

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️

 

The Sarcophagus Selfie

Background: A couple with especially poor decision making skills thought they’d place their (innocent) child inside an ancient sandstone coffin on display—behind a barrier—at the Prittlewell Priory Museum in Southend, Essex. The sarcophogus, though already in three pieces, was further damaged when the coffin broke apart.

Victim: The 800-year-old stone coffin, which was found on the museum’s grounds in 1921, and, of course, the child.

Status Report: Psychological scars aside, the museum’s director was confident in the restoration skills of their conservators.

Damage Factor: ⚠️⚠️⚠️

 

Our Lips Are Sealed

Background: An American student sought Internet fame when he crawled inside a vagina-shaped sculpture outside Tubingen University in Germany and accidentally entombed himself in the super-sized work, requiring five trucks and 22 firefighters to perform the extraction.

Victim: Fernando de la Jara‘s Chacán-Pi (Making Love)

Status Report: The hapless student was successfully rescued, though we’re not sure if his ego has recovered. The artwork suffered no damage.

Damage Factor: ⚠️

Smashing Pumpkins

Yayoi Kusama, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016). Courtesy of Ota Fine Arts, Tokyo/Singapore; Victoria Miro, London; David Zwirner, New York. © Yayoi Kusama. Photo by Cathy Carver.

Background: In February 2017, the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden opened a major show of Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama‘s Infinity Mirrors. Less than a week into its run, an amateur Instagrammer lost his balance in one of the dizzying infinity rooms, careening into one of the giant dotted pumpkins on display.

Victim: A pumpkin included in Kusama’s installation, All the Eternal Love I Have for the Pumpkins (2016).

Status Report: There appears to have been minimal damage done and the show became a resounding success, breaking attendance records and increasing museum membership by a whopping 6,566 percent.

Damage Factor: ⚠️

No Selfies

 

 

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