What Happens If You Break The Artwork

You’re in an art museum. You look down at a brochure or your phone or something that isn’t art. A bump. A shatter. The art broke. What do you do?

This is a common nightmare for anyone who has attended a gallery or museum: What if I break the art? Everyone has thought about it and, in some cases, we’ve even fantasized about getting physical with the often delicate and stupid creations on display that are worth countless amounts of money. We want to touch them because we aren’t allowed to, our inner child toiling with being told we cannot do or have something.

Yet there is a reality here: breaking art happens. Whether it is obnoxious child nightmares or enraged protesters or an unfortunate accident, breaking shit happens. Everything is temporary. Even art.

If this does happen, there are measures in place to recover the art in some capacity. Thanks to a fucking brilliant editorial over at Artsy, you get an idea of what happens when art is broken across the spectrum of breakage. There’s even quotes from someone who has broken art to make you squirm even more than you are.

For one, rest easy because your breaking art is a mistake you will not get in trouble for.

After a work of art is damaged, a gallery or institution will fill out an incident report, which documents what exactly happened and who was involved.

In the vast majority of cases, a visitor like Kinney who breaks an artwork by mistake won’t be held accountable for paying for the repair or the value of the work. “Generally speaking, they’re invitees to the premises,” said Colin Quinn, director of claims at AXA Art Americas Corporation.

Phew. Now step away from the art and know that less than 10% of art insurance cases are in regards to viewer broken pieces. Phew, phew, phew.

Another thing to keep in mind: art can be repaired. Everything dies, sure, but some things can be repaired and restored.

In January 2010, a woman fell into The Actor while it was on view at the Metropolitan Museum of Art, ripping a six-inch hole in the canvas. The painting was quickly taken to the conservation studio, where conservators reckoned with the damage before covering the tear with weights for six weeks to keep the canvas flat. Then, a patch was applied, and the work was retouched with a pigment-and-synthetic resin that would resemble the paints used by Picasso. When it returned to the museum three months later, it was shown behind a sheet of plexiglass.

Food to help your thoughts be easy. This is good news.

The biggest takeaway in all this is that you are not a child or very, very old: those seem to be the biggest offenders of art breakage. Regardless, this should assuage any unfounded anxiety fears you have about breaking art. It certainly cooled my sweated palms that I always believe will become sentient and wreak Hulk havoc on things.

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