Asia

The costliest art mishaps

Still of APTN footage of Paolo Porpora's restored painting Flowers Image copyright APTN
Image caption The painting, titled Flowers, was painted by Italian artist Paolo Porpora

A 17th Century painting inspired by Leonardo da Vinci is back on display after a 12-year-old Taiwanese boy accidentally punched a hole in it at an exhibition on Sunday.

The BBC's Tessa Wong lists other notable and costly art mishaps.


The $1.5m punch

The unnamed boy was walking around the Taipei gallery when he put his fist through a $1.5m (£960,000) painting by Italian artist Paolo Porpora.

Closed-circuit television footage showed him tripping over a low barrier and veering into the painting as he attempted to steady himself.

Taiwanese restorer Leo Tsai managed to patch it up within two days.

Image copyright Leo Tsai

He told reporters that as the painting is very fragile "the priority is to strengthen its structure, not to retouch the paint on the damaged area".

Image copyright Leo Tsai
Image caption This photo composite shows the different stages of restoration

The exhibition organisers have said they do not plan to seek compensation from the boy and his family.


'The $40m elbow'

In 2006, US casino magnate Steve Wynn famously punctured one of Pablo Picasso's most famous paintings, Le Reve.

Image copyright AFP
Image caption The painting depicts Picasso's mistress Marie-Therese Walter, and was bought by Mr Wynn in 2001

Mr Wynn, who owned the painting at that time, was about to sell it to a friend.

He was showing the painting to a group of friends on the eve of the sale when he backed up and put his elbow through it, prompting some in the US media to dub it 'the $40m elbow'. The deal was called off.

But Mr Wynn managed to recoup his losses. In 2013 he sold the restored painting to the same friend at a higher price of $155m.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Mr Wynn managed to sell it off in the end

The $471,000 tumble

Also in 2006, a man smashed three Qing dynasty porcelain vases on a windowsill at Cambridge University's Fitzwilliam Museum when he tumbled down the stairs.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The restored vases are now housed in a case

The vases were produced in the late 17th or early 18th Century in China, and were part of a set valued up to £300,000 at the time.

The museum spent six months restoring the vases, which are now housed in a specially designed case.

The widely publicised incident later inspired a German artist to replicate the scene of the smash in an artwork called Landing., and Fitzwilliam now sells a mini-jigsaw postcard of the vases. The man who tumbled down the stairs was not charged.


The $10,000 protest

Another smashing incident that had a less fortuitous ending took place last year when Florida artist Maximo Caminero deliberately broke a vase by Chinese artist Ai Weiwei.

Mr Caminero had walked into Miami's Perez Art Museum, picked up one of several urns by Ai, and threw it to the ground.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption The urns were part of an exhibition

He was promptly arrested and later found guilty of criminal mischief. Caminero had to pay $10,000 for the damage, which was the appraised value of the urn.

He said he did it to protest against the museum's alleged preference to showcase international artists, and also because he saw the artwork as a "provocation" to join Ai in "an act of performance protest".

The pots were arranged in front of another artwork by Ai called Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn, which are three giant photographs showing the Chinese artist smashing a vase.

Image copyright Getty Images
Image caption Dropping a Han Dynasty Urn

He also said later he did not realise that the pot was so old and claimed he thought it was a "common clay pot from [US retailer] Home Depot".

The incident however provoked a discussion on what constituted contemporary art, not least because Ai himself has been criticised for destroying artworks by buying ancient urns, splashing them with paint, and smashing them.

Ai however told the South China Morning Post: "I smashed my own belongings whereas he broke others'. Behavioural art can go to extremes, like you can hurt yourself for instance, but you cannot hurt others for the sake of art, can you?"

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