Art Market

In pursuit of a selfie, museum visitors in Russia damaged works by Dalí and Goya.

Alex Wexelman
Nov 6, 2018 3:55PM, via The Art Newspaper

The internet is awash with articles claiming that selfies are bad for us. While most seem meant to shame teens, nearly two weeks ago, the most legitimate tangible evidence that front-facing photos could be bad was presented when four young women knocked over a freestanding wall and damaged works by Salvador Dalí and Francisco de Goya while snapping a pic in an exhibition at the Glavny Prospect (Main Avenue) International Arts Center in Yekaterinburg, Russia.

Irina Volk, the official representative of the Russian Interior Ministry, said: “[The women] explained that the stand was touched by accident as they tried to take a photo with the paintings in the background." In surveillance camera footage of the October 27th incident obtained by Russia’s REN TV station, the structure holding the two works falls over and nearly flattens a woman who dodges it just in time. A stunned person is then seen behind the toppled structure.

“A group of girls, there were four of them, were not very adequately behaved, as a result, two works that were bundled in the exhibition space were damaged,” a museum employee said according to a report from the state-run news agency TASS. The works have been identified as an etching by Goya from the “Los Caprichos” (1799) series and a work by Dalí inspired by the Goya series. The Goya etching fared better in the fracas, luckily: its glass and frame broke, while the glass and frame of the Dalí work suffered harm, in addition to the work itself.

The Yekaterinburg disaster is certainly not the first incident in which a selfie mishap has resulted in damaged art. Most notoriously, in the summer of 2017, a woman crouching for a selfie in front of a sculpture by Simon Birch at a Los Angeles gallery fell into the pedestal holding the work, setting off a devastating domino effect that ultimately caused some $200,000 in damage.

Alex Wexelman