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From a list of accidental damage done to works of art since 2000, collected in Artifacts: Fascinating Facts about Art, Artists, and the Art World, which will be published this month by Phaidon.

Two workers at Sotheby’s auction house in London threw a wooden storage crate into a garbage compactor, thinking it was empty, and destroyed a small, early oil study of plants by Lucian Freud.

At the Fitzwilliam Museum in Cambridge, England, a visitor tripped over his shoelace, fell down a flight of stairs, and slammed into three seventeenth-century decorative Chinese vases from the Qing dynasty, shattering the artifacts and causing $800,000 in damage.

In 2006, the art collector Steve Wynn agreed to sell the 1932 Picasso painting Le Rêve for $139 million. Prior to handing it over, Wynn accidentally elbowed the work, causing $90,000 in damage. Wynn eventually sold the work in 2013 for $155 million—which, when adjusted for inflation, is approximately $5 million less than its pre-elbow price.

At the Ostwall Museum in Germany, a cleaner scrubbed the apparently dirty interior surface of a trough that was part of When It Starts Dripping from the Ceiling, a sculpture by Martin Kippenberger. The patina was, in fact, a layer of paint applied by the artist to look like dried rainwater.

Eighty-one-year-old Cecilia Giménez took it upon herself to restore the 1930 fresco Ecce Homo (Behold the Man), by Elías García Martínez, in her church in Borja, Spain. Her modifications to Jesus’ face were simian-like, and the painting is now widely known as “Behold the Monkey” or “Monkey Christ.”

In Milan’s Brera Academy, a student shattered the leg of an early-nineteenth-century sculpture when he crawled onto its lap to take a selfie.

On a guided tour of Taipei’s Huashan 1914 Creative Park, a twelve-year-old boy lost his balance, tripped over the protective cordon, and made a fist-size hole in the seventeenth-century masterpiece Flowers, by Paolo Porpora, which was worth an estimated $1.5 million.

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February 2022

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