ArtsBeat: The Art Of Clumsiness

Dionysus, 438-432 B.C.Image: British Museum, London

When an ancient sculpture has managed to survive a few thousand years, like our favourite god of wine and merriment, a missing limb or penis is par for the course. But what about damage caused by general clumsiness? According to Right Diagnosis, there are precisely 408 possible medical conditions causing clumsiness, like premenstrual syndrome, puberty, and impulsive behaviour “especially in children seen running all over the place.” Who knew? Here are some tragic acts of clumsiness to amuse/depress you:

  • In 2006, Steve Wynn, owner of a Las Vegas casino and of Picasso’s Le Rêve, arranged to sell his 1932 painting for $139 million. The day after the deal, he accidentally elbowed the painting in front of a gaggle of reporters, causing a wee tear and $90,000 in repairs. The painting is now worth a mere $85 million, and remains hanging on Steve Wynn’s wall.  Steve probably keeps his gesticulating down to a minimum now. Nora Ephron, who happened to witness the moment, tells her story in this article.
  • Also in 2006, a killer year for art, a man tripped over his untied shoelace and fell down the stairs at the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England. He came out unscathed, but the three Qing Dynasty vases that fell along with him, shattered into many tiny pieces. These 17th century vases had been in the museum since 1948, and were worth a pretty penny. Amazingly, restorers at the museum were able to put the vases back together. Have a look here to see how it was done. The man, however, has been banned from the museum for life since he hasn’t quite mastered the art of tying his shoelaces.
  • In 2010, an art student visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, lost her balance and fell into Picasso’s 1905 painting L’Acteur, worth $130 million. Her clumsiness created a six inch gash in the lower portion of the canvas. I’m betting she wished she stayed in bed and skipped that art class. But those amazing restorers worked their magic again, and the painting is now displayed behind a hunk of plexiglass, which really isn’t a bad idea when considering those aforementioned 408 medical conditions causing clumsiness.
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