Stumbling, bumbling, a guest at Manhattan’s Metropolitan Museum of Art fell into an early Picasso work on Friday, tearing a six-inch scar into one of its lower corners. It was nothing personal—the woman simply lost her footing during an adult education course at the museum—and, of course, museum staff quickly took the work, “The Actor” (1904, left), over to the conservation wing for triage. Seems the painting should be all healed up by the time the retrospective, “Picasso in the Metropolitan Museum of Art” opens this April. The accidental wounding of a modern masterpiece, however, takes us back to some notable nicks and scrapes works of art have endured over the years.
Most of you might remember when a hammer-wielding psychopath smashed the left toes of Michelangelo’s “David” (1504) in 1991 or when a another troubled patron splashed Rembrant’s “Nightwatch” (1642) with hydrochloric acid the year before. Seems something about great art has a way of ticking off the tin-foil-hat set, as when a man fired a sawed-off shotgun at Leonardo’s “The Virgin and Child with St. Anne and St. John The Baptist” (1500) at London’s National Gallery in 1987, in 1974 when a frustrated artist sprayed graffiti onto a copy of Picasso’s “Guernica” (1937), or when guest at the Louvre bounced a coffee mug off the bullet-proof glass protecting the “Mona Lisa” (c. 1503–1506) just last year. This newest incident, however, has a lot less to do with these psychologically or politically motivated attacks than the famous case of Steve Wynn, the billionaire Las-Vegas hotelier and art collector who poked hole in his Picasso, “The Dream” (1932) while showing it off just a day after having agreed to a $139 million deal to sell the work. Still, somehow, even with these spectacular incidents, art (particularly Picasso works) and the conservators who maintain it, keeps taking the constant abuse we dish out.
To visit these scarred artworks and much more check out:
The Metropolitan Museum of Art
1000 5th Avenue, New York, NY, USA
The National Gallery
Trafalgar Square, London, England
Musée du Louvre
34 Rue du Louvre, Paris, France