Jul 17 2017

Selfie destroys USD 200,000 Worth of Art

by Je-Seung Lee

Toppled plinths at the 14th Factory, Los Angeles, resulted in damaged artworks that were valued at USD 200,000. Photo from Party Pooper video.

At the 14th Factory exhibit held in a disused industrial lot in Lincoln Heights, Los Angeles, a visitor destroyed USD 200,000 worth of art in late-June.

According to closed-circuit surveillance footage of the incident uploaded to YouTube, a woman is seen taking a selfie in front of the “Hypercaine” group exhibition, which featured work by previously Hong-Kong-based artist Simon Birch. As the she knelt down to take the photo, she lost balance and skid against the pedestal behind her, knocking it over. But the disaster did not end there, as the toppled pedestal caused a domino effect by knocking over the entire row of pedestals behind it.

The damaged artworks were 12 crown-like sculptures made from a mixture of materials, including precious metals, marble, wood, nylon and scrap metal. It has been confirmed that out of the 12 sculptures, three had been permanently mangled while others suffered damage to varying degrees. The total cost of the affected artwork is estimated to be USD 200,000.

The story took an interesting twist when doubts were raised regarding the incident, with some speculating that it was a publicity stunt planned by one or more of the artists involved in the show. The perfectly captured footage of the accident by the venue’s security camera fueled the conjecture that the entire episode was staged. In regards to these suspicious sentiments, the 14th Factory told CNET that it did not release the video, but refused to comment on whether the damaged artworks were insured or not.

After the video surfaced online on July 13, it went viral, and has been viewed approximately 4.7 million times in just 5 days. The individual who uploaded the footage calls himself or herself Party Pooper, and claims to be a friend of Birch. The video also comes with a message that urges viewers to see “Hypercaine”: “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).”

Birch’s “Hypercaine” exhibition is mounted in one of the 14 rooms at the Los Angeles art space. The artist originally planned to exhibit this body of work in Hong Kong, but moved the presentation to its current venue in Los Angeles due to the Hong Kong government’s lack of support in providing a suitable space. There has been no confirmation as to the identity of the woman who knocked over the pedestal while attempting to take a selfie by Birch’s creations.

Je-Seung Lee is an editorial intern at ArtAsiaPacific.

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