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Arne Quinze’s partially collapsed “The Passenger” (2014) (photo by gasantarelli/Instagram)

Mons, a city in Belgium that’s been designated the “European Capital of Culture” for 2015, saw its year in the spotlight get off to a rocky start after one of its marquee commissions collapsed. The large-scale public installation “The Passenger,” by Belgian artist Arne Quinze, consists of a latticework of red, orange, black, and naturally stained wooden beams floating over the city streets in a cloud-like formation. At about 6pm on the evening of December 24, however, one of its supporting columns gave way, and part of the structure collapsed into the rue de Nimy and the local courthouse, La Voix du Nord reported. No one was injured in the collapse.

Arne Quinze, “The Passenger” (2014) (photo by Jean-Marc Froidure/Flickr) (click to enlarge)

“This has never, ever happened. In more than 15 years, not a single accident,” Quinze told RTBF. However, according to a former collaborator cited in the same report, an installation titled “Red Beacon” that he created last year at the Jing’an Sculpture Park in Shanghai did in fact collapse partially in August 2014. Quinze said that claim is false and has pledged to take his former collaborator to court for defamation.

“With some 30 installations around the world and more than 10 years of experience, the artist has taken on all the costs and responsibilities for an incident that had never taken place before,” the Mons 2015 foundation said in an announcement.

The organization also announced that security inspections will take place monthly and annually to ensure the long-term stability of “The Passenger.” For now, the installation is on track to be stabilized and rebuilt well ahead of the January 24, 2015, launch event for the city’s year as “European Capital of Culture.” Work on “The Passenger,” whose wood beams would stretch 35 kilometers (~21.7 miles) if placed end-to-end, first began in November. It’s scheduled to remain in place, hovering above the streets of central Mons, for five years.

Though none of Quinze’s structures are designed to collapse, his earliest Wooden Art Installation was built strictly for the purpose of being destroyed. “Uchronia: Message to/from the future” was assembled in the Nevada desert in the summer of 2006 and set ablaze at the end of that year’s Burning Man festival.

Detail of Arne Quinze’s “The Passenger” (2014) (photo by Next generation photo/Flickr)

Arne Quinze, “The Passenger” (2014) (photo courtesy the artist, via Facebook)

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Benjamin Sutton

Benjamin Sutton is an art critic, journalist, and curator who lives in Park Slope, Brooklyn. His articles on public art, artist documentaries, the tedium of art fairs, James Franco's obsession with Cindy...