When you break something at work it can make for a bad day. Who hasn’t worked in retail and had to pay for something you accidentally knocked off the shelf? But when the thing you accidentally break is an artwork with a $20,000 price tag, your day it a lot worse. That’s more or less what’s happened at a Mexico City art fair.
Last weekend, Mexico City’s Zona Maco contemporary art fair was buzzing with art enthusiast. One of the artists displaying artwork at the fair was Guadalajara-based artist Gabriel Rico. On display with Galería OMR was Rico’s 2017 work Nimble and Sinister Tricks (To Be Preserved Without Scandal and Corruption). The work consisted of a thin piece of glass standing straight up with objects, including a knife, stick, and soccer ball, piercing the glass. That is, until Saturday when the glass shattered effectively destroying the artwork’s original form.
So how did it happen? Well, that’s still a little uncertain.
The shattering happened as an art critic, who was vocally not a fan of the artwork, named Avelina Lésper was giving a tour of the fair and stopped at Rico’s work. Lésper placed her empty Coca-Cola can on the floor next to the art, according to NPR, though it has also been reported that she placed the can near or on a stone suspended in the glass of Nimble and Sinister Tricks and at that moment, the glass exploded. Following the incident, Lésper spoke with OMR and was informed of the cost of the artwork.
— Milenio.com (@Milenio) February 9, 2020
The day after the event, Lésper spoke with Milenio, a Mexico City newspaper, stating: ‘I had an empty can of soda, I tried to put it on one of the stones, but the work exploded. […] It was like the work heard my comment and felt what I thought of it.’ OMR has also responded to the event stating that it ‘seems to have been accidental and its irrelevant how it happened;’ however, Lésper showed ‘a huge lack of professionalism and respect’ for Rico and his work adding that ‘We don’t understand how an alleged professional art critic destroyed a work.’ The gallery added that they ‘are very sad and disappointed by what happened.’ As for the artist, he stated that he was ‘sad because this was very disrespectful for the pieces,’ continuing that it was a ‘regrettable situation.’
In her discussion with Milenio, Lésper apologized for the ‘lamentable incident.’ Lésper also added that the artwork might not be ruined, just transitioned, in a way. She referred to Marcel Duchamp’s The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass), which was broken in transit I 1923. When the artist saw the pieces of his work he declared it was ‘definitively unfinished.’ However, it might be too soon to suggest Rico’s work receive the same kind of treatment.