However civilised we may assume the art world is, many priceless pieces of art have undergone severe damage (or even gone missing!) because of careless and reckless behaviour. These kinds of incidents have been constant throughout history, either by foolish mistakes or by political and cultural activists wanting to make a sharp statement. Here we’ll take a look at some of the most extreme examples, and whether they caused permanent damage to the state or worth of the piece.
Gary Simmons – Chalk Masterpieces
Gary Simmons and his famous (and unique) chalk work have been much coveted pieces and definitely not available for purchase unless you have a rather large budget to spend! A bloke called Russell Simmons (no relation) did have the budget though and spent a huge amount purchasing one of Gary Simmons’ one of pieces. A while later he threw a party and invited friends over to his house, one of which was an (unnamed) Victoria’s Secret Model. This model saw the chalk piece and assumed the smudges were a mistake, so took a wet flannel and cleaned it up a bit. Needless to say – this destroyed the painting and took away any worth that the painting once had. We wonder if she was ever asked back?
Banksy – Robot boy
Banksy, the famous British guerrilla artist, painted once of his famous “graffiti style” pieces on the side of lucky hotel in Devon. The hotel owner (recognising it’s worth) decided to splash out £700 to protect it and thus had it covered with a Perspex sheet to protect it from weathering and staining. His efforts were pointless however, as nights later a group of vandals broke onto the property and poured paint stripper over the piece. Suffice to say, the painting was unrecognisable and completely destroyed – what would have once been worth upwards of £150,000, is now worth absolutely nothing and just another normal wall.
Lowry – Charcoal sketches
Lowry, an extremely high profile British artist who has created some of the most iconic charcoal sketches of his time was once struggling for money (believe it or not). At this time he chose to “tip” his milkman in small sketches, instead of money. As one might expect the milkman though Lowry was having a laugh with him and assumed the sketches were worthless pieces of paper, so he threw them away without a second thought. Years later he recognised copies of Lowry’s work in his doctors waiting room, and enquired as to who has painted the pieces. It was only then he found out that the little sketches he’d thrown away would now be worth thousands, maybe even millions.
Leonardo da Vinci – The Virgin and Child
This extremely well known piece, held in the London National Gallery was one of the highest valued pieces of art to be vandalised in recent history. The piece which was valued at $35 Million before it’s destruction – was the victim of gun crime in 1987. A political activist managed to smuggle a sawn off shotgun into the gallery and then proceeded to shot a hole through the protective glass and through the piece itself. Although the gallery did try to recover the piece and it was restored, it still remains damaged and is in no way back to its former glory.