Selfie-taker knocks over art work worth S$275,000: 5 other incidents of accidental damage to art pieces

A woman taking a selfie with an art installation in a Los Angeles exhibition two weeks ago, accidentally knocked it over.

In footage posted online on Thursday (July 13), a domino effect ensues, with the whole row of pedestals toppling over one by one. Three sculptures were said to be permanently damaged, and others to varying degrees. The cost of damage is estimated to be US$200,000 (S$274,918).

Here are five other incidents where people have accidentally damaged or discarded works of art.

1. Picasso painting punctured by elbow

In 2006, American casino magnate Steve Wynn elbowed Picasso's 1932 painting Le Rêve, which he acquired in 2001.

Wynn had bought the artwork for an undisclosed amount, from an anonymous collector, who had snagged it at an auction in 1997 for US$48.4 million.

Wynn told The New Yorker that while talking to some friends and showing them the painting - which hedge-fund mogul Steven Cohen had already agreed to buy for a record sum of US$139 million - his right elbow accidentally hit the picture and punctured it.

Auctioneer Christopher Burge takes bids on Picasso's The Dream in 1997. PHOTO: NPR

The painting was later restored, but Wynn told Cohen that he wanted to keep the painting.

2. Artwork sent to crushing machine

In 2000, porters at the Sotheby's auction house threw a wooden case they believed to be empty into a crushing machine. They later found out that the case contained a study done by esteemed British artist Lucian Freud, worth £100,000 (S$178,220).

The mistake was found out only after the artwork, which was due to arrive at Sotheby's, was not received by the auction house. Sotheby's had to compensate the owner of the artwork.

3. Qing Dynasty vases shattered by rolling man

As if tripping and falling down a staircase was not bad enough, for one museum visitor in 2006,the blows did not stop there.

Upon tripping over his shoelace at the Fitzwilliam museum in Cambridge, Britain, the man fell down a staircase and crashed into three 17th century Chinese porcelain vases.

The vases from the Qing Dynasty were estimated to be worth between £200,000 and £300,000. After a six-month long restoration, the vases were put back on public display.

4. Art piece thrown away as trash

Gustav Metzger’s concept of auto-destructive art at the Temple Gallery in London on June 22 1960. PHOTO: TATE

In 2004, an employee at art museum Tate Britain in London cleared a plastic bag which he thought was trash, but was actually part of an art exhibition.

The exhibition, Recreation Of First Public Demonstration Of Auto-Destructive Art, was the work of German artist Gustav Metzger, who solved the problem by replacing the lost bag with another.

5. Pinky finger of Virgin Mary statue broken off

A 600-year-old statue in Florence, Italy, found itself missing a pinky when an American tourist accidentally snapped it off in 2013.

The tourist was trying to measure his own pinky against that of the statue, which depicted the Virgin Mary, when he accidentally broke the little finger off the statue.

Titled Annunciazione, it was the work of 15th century Florentine sculptor Giovanni d'Ambrogio.

But in a stroke of good luck for the tourist, the pinky finger he broke off was not an original part of the statue, but one made out of plaster to replace the original.

Sources: The New Yorker, Time, The Independent, The Guardian, BBC