The most expensive selfie ever?
How much does a selfie cost? Thanks to recent events at an exhibition in 14th Factory, Los Angeles, we can say with confidence that a selfie costs anywhere between $0 and $200,000.
The Hypercaine exhibition featured 12 crown-like sculptures balanced atop a series of podiums of varying heights in different lines. Described by the Los Angeles Times as “a series of wondrous, over-the-top sets for the perfect selfie”, many people understandably came to take a picture of themselves standing in front of someone else’s artwork to add to their photo albums.
Unfortunately, this harmless photo hobby went a bit wrong when a woman taking a selfie managed to back up a bit too far and accidentally knocked a podium over. It fell towards another podium, creating a domino effect which ended up damaging multiple crowns. Three were permanently damaged, and the total bill came to $200,000. It is unclear if the artwork was insured.
As there always are in these cases, there are questions over whether this was a publicity stunt. The art world seems particularly susceptible to accusations of false flag publicity operations.
Let’s choose not to be cynical and give the unnamed woman the benefit of the doubt. This unfortunate selfie-taker has joined the ranks of famous accidental vandals who have blundered their way through the world of art in the past.
Accidental vandalism comes in many forms. Unintentional clumsiness is a popular category, perhaps best exemplified by Steve Wynn. In 2006, Wynn decided to sell Picasso’s Le Rêve (1932), a painting valued at $139m – a price which would have made it the most expensive sale of all time. Unfortunately, Wynn accidentally elbowed the painting whilst showing it off to reporters and tore it. It is unclear whether anyone laughed at the time, but it seems unlikely. After a $90,000 repair job, the painting was revalued at a measly $89m, and Steve Wynn probably went on to live with some regrets.
Another fun category in the world of accidental destruction of art is the well-meaning but ultimately disastrous attempt at restoration by earnest, but unskilled, amateurs. To qualify for this category it is important that there is no ill will or desire for fame involved. The amateur restorer must be motivated only by the purest of desires. A great example is Cecilia Giménez, an 83-year-old widow and amateur painter from Borja, Spain. In 2012 she was overtaken by the urge to restore Elías García Martínez’s Ecco Homo(1930) to its former glory. Rather than inform anyone of what she clearly saw as an important task, she simply set about her sacred duty one day and ended up turning an elegant and thoughtful portrait of Jesus into a horrifying visage of pain. Giménez was mortified when she realised that her skills were not up to the task, but the botched painting ended up bringing much tourist income to the town as people from around the world came to marvel at this ridiculous restoration effort and mock it in large groups.
The third category of accidental art vandalism is negligence. There are many examples of this which tend to be variations on a theme. The funniest occurrence probably comes from Sotheby’s in 2000. Porters at the London auction house decided to send a box to the crushing machine without checking what was inside, which turned out to be an error. The box contained a painting by Lucian Freud worth approximately $157,000 which was destroyed in short order. Paintings left lying around in boxes and bags tend not to enjoy a very illustrious fate.
As technology advances, it seems we will keep using it to accidentally destroy art. The coming virtual reality revolution should provide rich pickings in this regard as people stumble around rooms with no regard for their surroundings.
Image © youtube/Party Pooper