A recently released YouTube video of an expensive accident in an art gallery is a strange (but not uncommon) collision of the the expensive fragility of art objects and the (literally) clumsy narcissism of selfie culture — particularly that of the “art selfie.” The video in question was recorded a couple of weeks ago but is just now circulating: it sees a woman bending down to take a selfie in front of a perfectly aligned row of pedestals — so perfectly aligned, in fact, that if one were to accidentally bump into or fall against one while, say, trying to take a selfie, it could send the whole row of them toppling like very expensive dominoes. Which is exactly what happened.
The video shows what went down at Hong Kong-based artist Simon Birch’s L.A. pop-up warehouse gallery exhibit:
As Hyperallergic notes, the twist of the story is that the L.A. Times had had writer Carolina Miranda write up an “Instagram Tour” of the 3-acre exhibit of massive room-sized multimedia installations by various artists, wherein she called it a “series of wondrous, over-the-top sets for the perfect selfie [that] makes Instagram the perfect platform through which to experience all the high-budget spectacle.” She also noted in that piece that the exhibit is $18 per person (yes, this is not a museum, but a gallery show), or “three dollars more than the adult admission fee at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art.” Not only was admission expensive — so, it seems, is the art itself. For apparently the damage wrought by this one ill-fated selfie is $200,000.
The accident went down in a room displaying an installation called Hypercaine. Put together by Birch, Gabriel Chan, Jacob Blitzer, and Gloria Yu, it’s a grid of crowns made from assorted materials — some cheap, like scrap metal, some not so much, like gold or marble — atop pedestals. Yu detailed the damage to Hyperallergic, saying, “Three sculptures were permanently damaged and others to varying degrees” and providing the $200,000 figure.
As for what you’ll experience at the 14th Factory if you’re not just going for selfie/destructive purposes, the site describes it as a place where “the visitor is transformed into a central player in a collaboratively fabricated adventure and motion picture that engages and unfolds, uniting individuals to the creative process and to each other. The experience challenges the current political climate by celebrating creative diversity, unity and the act of overcoming obstacles and challenges as a global society.”
As the Guardian points out, the 14th Factory has asserted that it wasn’t actually secretly behind the accident, but the fact that the footage was so well captured has led YouTube commenters to speculate on whether it was staged by artists, noting the fact that the video was published by someone speaking as a “mate” of Birch’s, who wrote:
This took place at my mate Simon Birch’s art installation The 14th Factory in Los Angeles, when a lady tried to crouch down and pose in front of a pillar holding a sculpture to take a picture…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).