Damaging the Work of Famous Artists

What is wrong with these people?

It would surely be a great privilege for most of us just to be able to see and appreciate the works of such great artists, to even be in the same room… yet there are individuals who through either carelessness or plain misfortune seem to be able somehow to actually damage them. Not just bump a frame perhaps, but to actually tear them, punch holes in them…

How? I have in my possession some paintings of my own, such as exercises from art lessons years ago, worthless to anyone except myself, which I have lugged through various house moves, even from one continent to another, without much care or attention, and as I write, these same canvasses, unframed, are stacked against a wall to the left of this table – and not one has a hole in it or any other damage beyond perhaps some accumulation of dust or, at worst, some particles embedded on the surface. How does one manage to tear off the corner of a Matisse? Does one go snowboarding with it? The world would in my opinion be a better place if such art were to be owned and handled only by persons who appreciate art for its true worth – a concept that only those who really appreciate art would know. The paintings from the amateur years of an artist are safer stacked against a wall in a corner and carried up and down staircases around the world than those framed and hanging in the offices and mansions of some who do not love art for art’s sake.

Here are some examples:

Nu au Coussin bleu à côté d’une cheminée

This lithograph, “Nu au Coussin bleu à côté d’une cheminée”, signed and numbered by Henri Matisse in 1925, has had its top left corner torn off while in the possession of or handled by an art gallery in New York.


``Femme assise dans un fauteuil''

Picasso’s “Femme assise dans un fauteuil” (1941) has been damaged while in the care of a Gallery in New York. A tear about 2 inches long had to be repaired near the centre of the canvas.

Picasso’s famed “Le Reve” was about to be sold by its owner to another collector for an agreed USD 139 million, which would have made it the world record price ever paid for a painting, and while entertaining some friends or guests, showing them the painting at his office in Las Vegas, he  accidentally poked a hole in the middle of the canvas with his elbow.

To be fair, one should mention that art lovers have also had accidents before, such as the unfortunate incident at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in 2010… but even so, for goodness sake, how does someone actually manage to FALL INTO A CANVAS?

We can only hope that the vast majority of staff at galleries and museums around the world actually love the art they see every day to such an extent that they would even work there for nothing just to have the privilege of seeing a Monet or Matisse when one passes through…I would, if I could – but who can? The ‘rich’ wouldn’t and the ‘poor’ couldn’t.

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2 thoughts on “Damaging the Work of Famous Artists

  1. Historic artworks, old masters, etc, will have a tendency for their grounds and other media to deriorate. Don’t forget that there have been world events such as wars happening in between the ‘normal’ times in which All this will take it’s toll on the condition of the originals so they might not take normal handling as well as art from our own generations. So it’s unlikely to be simply the way they are handled or stored.

    That said, I’ve had horrible accidents with some of my earlier watercolours and drawings, including accidentally spilling half a cup of tea over a loved painting!

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