A fair-going toddler at Art Basel in Basel seems to have broken a cardinal rule—don’t touch the art. According to a report by Swiss news agency NAU cited by The Art Newspaper, a three-year-old girl was perusing the Matthew Marks Gallery booth when she accidentally knocked Katharina Fritsch’s work Fliege (Fly) (2000), a plastic sculpture of a fly, from its plinth.
The work, reportedly on sale for SF56,000 ($56,000), fell from its pedestal and the impact broke off the fly’s wings. An Art Basel spokesperson told The Art Newspaper the fair organizers were “aware of the incident,” but had been “informed by the gallery that the work was not damaged.”
Sadly, this is far from the first time an inquisitive youth has damaged an artwork. There’s the Kansas family whose child knocked over a $132,000 sculpture last year; the mother and daughter duo who damaged a swing set sculpture last summer when they mistook it for a functioning swing; the boys who smashed a glass sculpture at a Shanghai museum while two adults filmed them; the parents who, in 2014, purportedly encouraged their child to climb on a $10 million work by Donald Judd; and the child in Taipei who accidentally punched a Paolo Porpora painting. Adults are just as often guilty of flouting art space etiquette, as demonstrated by the 2017 incident in a Los Angeles gallery where a woman posing for a photograph knocked over an entire row of sculptures.
If you’re wondering what happens if you break an artwork, fear not, in most such instances a specialized insurance will cover the cost and the perpetrator won’t be stuck footing the bill—that is, assuming it was an accident.