July 15, 2017

Accident or staged publicity stunt? Does the artist benefit from this "selfie domino" that is said to destroy $200,000 of artwork?

There's video of the incident:



Very entertaining (if it's really an accident).

The NYT carries the story — of a show I don't think it would have covered otherwise — under the headline "Oops! A Gallery Selfie Gone Wrong Causes $200,000 in Damage." Which got my attention. Why was 1 row of that exhibit — which looks easily replicable — worth $200,000?

The video, which went up Thursday, "has racked up nearly 300,000 views," according to the NYT on Friday. Right now, it has over 2 million views, including mine, and I'm encouraging you to have yours.
It is possible this was staged. The video was uploaded by someone who claims to know [the artist Simon] Birch and its description ends with a plug: “The rest of The 14th Factory is one of its kind. .... Go visit before it closes end of July (or before a few more pieces break).”

But in an email, Mr. Birch said it was a true accident. Still, he said, he would not be putting signs up urging visitors to be careful. “We trust people.” Mr. Birch said. “Crowns are fragile things. They are symbols of power. Perhaps it’s ironic and meaningful that they fell.”
If it adds meaning for the plinths to topple and the crowns to break, that supports the theory that the incident was intended. Even if the artist didn't stage that particular woman's behavior, the whole place seems staged for something like that to happen, with video, the news stories, and the artist's quote about how meaningful it all is.

The selfie angle is extremely popular with new media, because what's this world coming to, what's wrong with these kids today?

The NYT has run 1,186 stories with the word "selfie" and 1,185 of them are post-2012. (The one outlier is a story about Chinese prisoners from 1971, and that's just a false positive. The word isn't really there. The OED has the word originating in Australia, first detected in an online forum in 2002: "Sorry about the focus, it was a selfie."

Museum selfies are a special newsworthy category. The NYT has 187 stories with the words "museum" and "selfie." I haven't counted how many of those are about problems caused by museum/gallery visitors taking selfie, but obviously it's something the NYT is following (thus making it predictable that selfie-caused damage to artwork will get publicity).

In the "Oops!... $200,000 in Damage" article, the NYT goes on to tell us of other incidents, beginning with this one:
Our Los Angeles woman is hardly alone in the annals of the selfie-clumsy. At the “Yayoi Kusama: Infinity Mirrors” exhibition at the Hirshhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington, a huge hit featuring immersive mirrors, part of the museum closed for three days after a patron shattered a glowing LED pumpkin in February.
I'm singling that one out, because it goes with a hilarious correction at the end of the article:
An earlier version of this article misstated the value of a glowing LED pumpkin that was shattered in February at the Hishhorn Museum and Sculpture Garden in Washington. The value was negligible; the pumpkin was not worth $800,000.
Ha! If the damned pumpkin was overvalued by a factor of — what? — 200,000, maybe the NYT should rethink that assertion of "$200,000 in Damage" in its headline. Compare it to my headline: "said to destroy...."

And, I mean, look at that video. The crowns don't break. (What are they made of?) The plinths can be set right again. What damage is there at all? Notice that the voices on the video don't seem the slightest bit upset at the incident. Why did the NYT pass along this patently spurious number as a fact rather than an assertion?

But I will give the NYT credit for not working Donald Trump into the story. The fragility of power, the meaningful falling. That had to be tempting.

28 comments:

Hagar said...

Since the "art" is a scam to start with, who cares?

Ann Althouse said...

I care because I monitor the accuracy of the news media.

Also, I care about the scamminess of art.

These are important topics to me and have been for 13 years on this blog. Longtime, consistent topics for me.

gspencer said...

$200k in damages? Yeah, I really believe that. Initial "artist" prices are set by the artist, using the fevered imagination of him/her/er/zie (whatever; you choose) as the sole guide.

And the studio has no responsibility in all of this (assuming this wasn't a stunt to begin with)? Placing such "valuable" artwork on flimsy boxes, unsecured to the floor, so close together. Nothing foreseeable here.

Rae said...

I'm betting it was "worth $200,000" because the entire display was insured for that amount.

Darrell said...

Insurance agent: About your $200,000.00 claim. . .

grackle said...

Fake art news = a subset of fake news. There’s also fake climate news, fake Russia news, fake gun control news, fake healthcare news, etc. The list is almost endless because most news is fake news.

Fernandinande said...

[the artist Simon] Birch has a classy website, with links to
FACEBOO
K
and a
BLO
G

Glen Filthie said...

Well Ann - LOL - since when has the Noo Yawk Slimes anything other than 'performance art'? I don't think it's reasonable at all to expect ANY sort of journalistic standards out of that rag sheet. That is one fat ol' grey lady that seriously needs to die.

I am strongly tempted to make a rude joke about fat old grey haired ladies at this point, but fear for my personal safety dictates that discretion is the better part of valour! :)

Big Mike said...

I looked at the clip twice, because the first time I didn't know which of the three or four women who were close to the exhibit was the culprit. She tripped? On what? My answer to your headline, Althouse, is "staged."

Darrell said...

I would never take Michelle Fields there.

Eric said...

The stuff wasn't selling, so they tried increasing demand, but that didn't work, so now they are decreasing supply.

Michael K said...

I worry about such things, too. For example, that woman who was doing "performance art" by dropping eggs from her vagina.

I mean, did the eggs break?"

How many new eggs did she need for each "performance?"

Did she get vagina salmonella from the chicken shit on the eggs?

Stuff like that us artists worry about.

David said...

Likely a fake would have brought them all down not just one row. But maybe a bad fake.

JAORE said...

Calling this art is a stunt, so......

David said...

What if... artists like her hadn't gotten blocked up, and could use their art skills (writing, speaking, joking, whatever) to capture our American times, and reflect them back at us accurately? Then, we wouldn't all be so spoon-fed by Hollywood (ideas are scarce in films today, and non-pay tv too) and American culture/true masculinity on such a downswing in emulating the boyish hero movies so popular overseas today, and saturating our own film markets.

I think the artists of your generation have failed us, althouse.
It's like -- you all sold out, or burned out.



Oh please. We are inundated with crap art. Not just valuable overhyped crap but just normal every day crap by people with limited talent, discipline or imagination. These are found especially in the art trying too hard "to capture the American times." There is wonderful art being done but we don't need more. If anything we need better. The artists are not going to save our civilization.

Will Cate said...

Almost certainly staged. The camera angle looks like a security camera, but it wiggles as if someone is holding it.

madAsHell said...

I wonder how the selfie turned out.

Lyle Smith said...

I saw a real accident happen at an art space in Luzern, Switzerland. Two gentlemen decided to horseplay and ended up falling in to a precisely set up tin can wall that curved around the room to divide the space. About half of it came down. Wine and cheese was being served, and the crowd just politely laughed and got on with the event.

Big Mike said...

Sorry, they said "fell," not "tripped." She sits down with her back to the end plinth then suddenly leans backwards. Staged.

Joe said...

Was this an insurance or publicity scam? Or both?

n.n said...

Selfie. Selfish. What an inglorious term of art.

Yancey Ward said...

I am like Rae- that figure was the insured amount.

madAsHell said...

Wine and cheese was being served

White Wine Matters!!

Mountain Maven said...

It looked like standard "modern art" crap to me.

Khesanh 0802 said...

Nothing like the Taiwanese kid who fell into and punched a hole in a $1.5 million painting; or the lady in Spain who ruined a painting then wanted part of the proceeds from those who came to see the thing. I agree that it was a setup, but was disappointed that only one row of dominoes fell. Very poor job of construction!

Bad Lieutenant said...

Is anyone else having comments disappear? Is that a blogger thing?

Khesanh 0802 said...

And in other news from the "art" world: columbia-settles-with-student-accused-of-raping-mattress-girl

stlcdr said...

"...I will give the NYT credit for not working Donald Trump into the story. "

But their readers will.