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MUSEO DELL'OPERA DEL DUOMO/Daily News

9 Other Museum Patrons Who Mangled Works of Art

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MUSEO DELL'OPERA DEL DUOMO/Daily News

On a trip to Florence, a 55-year-old from Missouri reportedly broke the finger off a 600-year-old statue at Museo dell'Opera del Duomo. While the thought of a guest clumsily tripping and damaging a piece may make art fans cringe, it's more common than you'd think. Here are a few more tales of museum patrons and art lovers who accidentally harmed precious works of art.

1. Come for the Martinis, Stay for the Monet

Museums occasionally rake in some extra cash by hosting private events, and in 2006 the Milwaukee Art Museum opened its doors for a Clear Channel shindig that must have sounded reasonable at the time: Martinifest, a semiformal event where guests got all the martinis they could drink for a flat $30.

Anyone who's ever been to an open-bar event can see where this one is headed. The crowd apparently had a deeper appreciation for gin and vermouth than for Picasso and Matisse, and things got predictably wild. By the end of the night, gin-soaked patrons had vomited on some of the works and even climbed on Gaston Lachaise's large bronze sculpture, Standing Woman. The Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel ran this gem of a quote from an eyewitness to the sculpture-scaling: "They were standing on it, grabbing the boobs, and somebody was just taking pictures with a cell phone." [Image courtesy of Lachaise Foundation.]

2. The Kids Love Rothko

Abstract expressionism is apparently the most irresistible kid-friendly force since Elmo, and something about Mark Rothko's Black on Maroon really speaks to young people.

Over the span of just a few months, two different tots got their mitts on the painting at London's Tate Modern. In the first incident, a child grabbed the canvas, which damaged the work by leaving a series of small dents in the piece. Three months later, a two-year-old snuck underneath the barrier that had been set up in front of the painting and left handprints on the work.

3. Careful with that Boom Mic

Bored toddlers aren't the only danger to the Tate's collections, though. Anish Kapoor's 2003 sculpture Ishi's Light sustained damages when a film crew cameraman banged into it with his tripod in 2007. The tripod chipped a hunk out of the fiberglass, resin, and lacquer work.

4. Modern Art? It Makes Me Want to Puke

A few little chips and tears seem trifling compared to the indignity Carl Andre's 1980 sculpture Venus Forge suffered at the Tate in 2007. A child became queasy while visiting the gallery, and vomited on part of the sculpture instead of making a beeline for the bathroom. Several of the work's steel and copper plates had to be removed for some (pretty disgusting) restoration work.

5. Child Pulls Off Frame-Up

French painter Ary Scheffer's 1854 work The Temptation of Christ is still in one piece, but the same can't be said for its antique frame. A curious child broke several pieces off of the frame while the painting was on display at National Museums Liverpool.

6. Bubblicious: The Bane of the Art World

In February 2006, the curatorial staff at the Detroit Institute of Arts made an alarming discovery: someone had slapped a hunk of gum on Helen Frankenthaler's abstract painting The Bay. After some investigation, museum administrators learned that a 12-year-old boy had affixed the chewed gum on the painting during a school visit to the museum. (Something's telling us that the incident ruined future field trips for everyone.) Luckily, the museum found the gum quickly and was able to remove it, even using a magnifying glass to pull remaining bits of gum off of the individual strands of the canvas weave.

7. Mind the Barbed Wire

If you think encasing a museum's collection behind barbed wire might help alleviate some of this unwanted touching, think again; it might just make things worse. Consider Tracey Emin's 2005 work Self Portrait: Bath. One element of the work involves a neon light wrapped in barbed wire, which led to a problem when a visitor to Edinburgh's Gallery of Modern Art got a little too close while viewing the piece. The barbed wire got caught in the visitor's clothing, so when he walked away part of the work dragged along behind him. The museum ended up spending $2,000 to repair the damages.

8. Keep Your Balance

In 2010, New York's Metropolitan Museum of Art finally got to put Picasso's The Actor back up on its gallery walls after a three-month hiatus. That January, a patron lost her balance and fell into the 1904 painting, opening up a six-inch gash in the lower right-hand corner of the canvas. Luckily, art restoration experts were able to repair the canvas in time for the Met's large Picasso exhibit.

9. Watch Your Shoelaces

This one could have been a hilarious pratfall if it hadn't done so much unfunny damage. In 2006, Nick Flynn was visiting the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge when he tripped over his untied shoelaces and took a tumble down the museum's main staircase. Flynn flailed his arms in an attempt to catch his balance, but the stairs didn't have a handrail, just smooth marble walls.

The first thing the 42-year-old Flynn managed to catch in his attempt to right himself was a 300-year-old Chinese vase that was displayed unprotected in a windowsill. Unfortunately, when Flynn hit the vase, it ricocheted into two other vases from the same era of the Qing dynasty. The stumble ended up smashing all three vases—which were worth around £100,000—before Flynn came to a rest.

Pretty embarrassing for Flynn, right? The humiliation didn't stop there. Two months after the incident, he was arrested on suspicion of causing criminal damage and even spent a night in jail after museum officials began to worry that he'd smashed the vases on purpose. In the end, the museum didn't press charges against Flynn, and the restored vases are back on display—in a custom-built case to protect them from any further falls.

Portions of this story originally appeared in 2010.

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Lebrel
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Watch an Artist Build a Secret Studio Beneath an Overpass
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Lebrel

Artists can be very particular about the spaces where they choose to do their work. Furniture designer Fernando Abellanas’s desk may not boast the quietest or most convenient location on Earth, but it definitely wins points for seclusion. According to Co.Design, the artist covertly constructed his studio beneath a bridge in Valencia, Spain.

To make his vision a reality, Abellanas had to build a metal and plywood apparatus and attach it to the top of an underpass. After climbing inside, he uses a crank to wheel the box to the top of the opposite wall. There, the contents of his studio, including his desk, chair, and wall art, are waiting for him.

The art nook was installed without permission from the city, so Abellanas admits that it’s only a matter of time before the authorities dismantle it or it's raided by someone else. While this space may not be permanent, he plans to build others like it around the city in secret. You can get a look at his construction process in the video below.

[h/t Co.Design]

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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain
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15 Facts About Franz Marc's Yellow Cow
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Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

To gaze upon German Expressionist Franz Marc's Yellow Cow is to take in a surreal and spirited painting, alive with color. But within its bold brush strokes and envelope-pushing aesthetic lies the unexpected story of a complicated love between two artists, and the path that led them together.

1. YELLOW COW IS WILDLY DIFFERENT FROM FRANZ MARC'S EARLY WORKS.

Philosophy student-turned-painter Franz Marc attended the Munich Academy of Art during the turn of the 20th century. There, he studied natural realism, striving to capture his subjects in portraits true to dimension, gesture, and color. In 1902, he created Portrait of the Artist's Mother, which immortalized homemaker and devout Calvinist Sophie Marc. Sitting in profile, she leans over a book, reading by the light of an unseen lantern. Though Marc would become known for his vibrant color choices, here he favored darker shades that gave the painting a flat appearance, and a somber mood.

2. YELLOW COW'S CREATION WAS INSPIRED BY GERMAN NUDISTS.

In the early 20th century, Germany was in the midst of a back-to-nature movement, which saw several new artist collectives and nudist colonies pop up around the country. This celebration of the glory of the land and its natural inhabitants spoke to Marc, who later explained, "People with their lack of piety, especially men, never touched my true feelings. But animals with their virginal sense of life awakened all that was good in me."

3. HE VIEWED ANIMALS AS GOD-LIKE CREATURES.

Like the naturalists, Marc came to value the rural wonders of the country. He abandoned the bustle and urban intellectualism of Munich, and sought the spirituality and peace he believed could be found in living simply, as animals do. He began to think of them as having a "god-like presence and power." In a 1908 letter, Marc attempted to detail how this belief was informing his work, writing, "I am trying to intensify my ability to sense the organic rhythm that beats in all things, to develop a pantheistic sympathy for the trembling flow of blood in nature, in trees, in animals, in air—I am trying to make a picture of it … with colors which make a mockery of the old kind of studio picture."

4. ANIMALS BECAME A SIGNATURE MOTIF FOR MARC.

This is an image of Dog Lying in the Snow by Franz Marc
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

By 1907, Marc was focusing his work on capturing the spiritualism found in animals. Other notable works in the vein include The Fox, Dog Lying In The Snow, The Little Blue Horses, The Red Bull, Little Monkey, Monkey Frieze, Wild Boars in the Water, and The Tiger.

5. YELLOW COW IS A VERY LARGE PAINTING.

Measuring 55 3/8 by 74 1/2 inches, it's nearly 5 by 6 feet wide.

6. MARC DEVELOPED HIS OWN COLOR SYMBOLISM.

This is an image of Self-portrait by August Macke.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Colors would recur in Marc's work and speak to different emotions or themes. In 1910, he explained his use of color in a letter to friend and colleague, artist August Macke. Marc wrote, "Blue is the male principle, astringent and spiritual. Yellow is the female principle, gentle, gay, and spiritual. Red is matter, brutal and heavy and always the color to be opposed and overcome by the other two."

7. YELLOW COW MIGHT BE AN UNCONVENTIONAL WEDDING PORTRAIT.

Exploring the painter's works and statements on his use of color, art historian Mark Rosenthal declared that the frolicking cow is actually a veiled depiction of Marc's second wife Maria Franck, while the distant blue mountains are meant to represent the painter himself. Painted the same year the couple were married, it times out to potentially be representative of their nuptials. The blending of the blue into the cow's spots suggests the joining of masculine and feminine.

8. FRANCK WAS A RECURRING MUSE FOR HER LOVER.

In 1906, before they were married, Marc had sketched a more traditional portrait of his wife-to-be, titled simply Mädchenkopf, which translates—rather unsentimentally—to "girl's head." That same year, he captured Franck in the abstract painting Two Women on the Hillside. Later, he created Maria Franck in a White Cap.

9. MARC AND FRANCK HAD A COMPLICATED ROMANCE.

An artist in her own right, Franck met Marc at a costume ball in Schwabing, Germany. The pair hit it off, and also befriended illustrator Marie Schnür, resulting in a shared Bavarian summer of creativity (and rumored three-way trysts). Schnür was the other woman who modeled for Two Women on the Hillside, as well as the other woman captured in a NSFW photo from their formative season in the sun. Marc ended up marrying both women, starting with Schnür.

Theirs was a marriage of convenience, meant to aid her in securing custody of her bastard baby boy, whom she had with another man. Details on this marriage are scant beyond that it was brief, lasting from 1907 to 1908. However, because Schnür accused Marc of infidelity, he was barred from remarrying until a special dispensation was granted, which took years. So while Marc and Franck had tried to wed in 1911, their official "I do" didn't come until June 3, 1913, in Munich.

10. TWO WOMEN ON THE HILLSIDE WAS A SIGN OF MARC'S TRANSITION TO HIS SIGNATURE STYLE.

This is an image of Two Women on the Hillside by Franz Marc.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Looking back on 1906's Two Women on the Hillside, it seems to foretell Yellow Cow. Depicting the two women who, in their own ways, would inspire Yellow Cow, Marc moved away from the German realist art he studied in college. Instead, looser brush strokes speak to Post-Impressionist interests, and the willful abstractness of its subjects predicts the evolving German expressionism movement of which he would become a part. It also shows repetition in the lines—of the woman's hip to the hill beyond—that would be revisited in Yellow Cow, whose haunches mirror the rise and fall of the mountains behind her.

11. YELLOW COW WAS A PART OF THE DER BLAUE REITER ART MOVEMENT.

Named for a Wassily Kandinsky painting, this movement boasted members like Kandinsky, Marc, Macke, Alexej von Jawlensky, Marianne von Werefkin, and Gabriele Münter. Der Blaue Reiter (translating to The Blue Rider) had no hard manifesto, but its members shared a common urge to express spiritualism through their work, and often specifically through color. Turned away from exhibitions, they toured with their own, and published an almanac that celebrated contemporary, primitive, and folk art, along with children's paintings.

12. DER BLAUE REITER WAS DEVASTATED BY WORLD WAR I.

The Blue Rider movement only lasted from 1911 to 1914, in large part because the tensions growing between nations chased Russian artists back to their homeland, while Germans, including Marc and Macke, were conscripted into military service. As these artistic colleagues scattered, their movement faded. But it proved fundamental to the evolving Expressionism, and its works would remain.

13. MARC DID NOT LIVE TO SEE HIS LEGACY SECURED.

Marc's animal paintings would go on to awe viewers for decades to come. They'd become coveted by collectors and museums. And a plaque would be placed on the Munich home where he was born, remembering him as a founder of Der Blaue Reiter. But Marc was killed on March 4, 1916, during the Battle of Verdun. He was 36 years old.

14. FRANCK SAW TO IT THAT HIS WORKS WOULD BE PRESERVED.

This is an image of art historian, Klaus Lankheit.
Wikimedia Commons // Public Domain

Marc's widow gave records of his life and writing to German art historian Klaus Lankheit. She called on German writer/gallery owner Herwarth Walden to exhibit her late husband's works in a posthumous show in October of 1916. While continuing to create and exhibit her own work, she collected Marc's letters from the war's front, and in 1920 had them published in a two-volume book called Briefe, Aufzeichnungen und Aphorismen (translating to Letters, Records, and Aphorisms). According to the Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum, where a copy of each is preserved, "The first volume contains letters written from September 1914 to March 1916 as well as records alongside color plates, and the second presents the artist’s sketchbook." Franck preserved Marc's legacy in whatever way she could, and in doing so, gave him to the world.

15. YELLOW COW IS REMEMBERED AS A JOYFUL MASTERPIECE.

While it might not sound complimentary to compare your wife to a cow, the consensus on Yellow Cow is that it signifies the happiness and bliss Marc's bond with Franck brought to his life. The bovine's bright colors are jubilant and yet the colors of her body jibe with those in her environment. She belongs here. Her pose is enthusiastic and bold—almost dance-like. If you look closely, you can even see a small smile play across her lips. It's an unusual love letter, but one that's outlived its lovers, and now hangs on the walls of the Guggenheim in New York City, to inspire many more.

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