Our blood boiled when that kid climbed a Donald Judd sculpture. We shook our heads when tourists in Milan and Lisbon broke centuries-old statues to take selfies with them. When women in China filmed children pull and shatter a glass sculpture, we gasped in disbelief; when, most recently, a man in Pennsylvania spent one minute poking a clock sculpture until he destroyed it, we could really only laugh.
It seems these absurdities will never end no matter how much we may shame irresponsible guardians or selfie-seekers. Now, we have the buffoon who, this week, visited Lisbon’s National Museum of Ancient Art (NMAA) and toppled an 18th century, Portuguese sculpture while posing for a photo with it. The polychrome wooden sculpture of the archangel Saint Michael fragmented after the man, a Brazilian tourist, tripped and backed into the gallery’s tall centerpiece. The depressing aftermath was captured by another visitor, Nuno Miguel Rodriges, who told Portuguese newspaper Público, “There were guards in the room at the time it happened … Everyone was incredulous at what had happened and there was a great silence.”
The museum posted a statement on its Facebook noting that the sculpture will undergo examination by its conservation team, which will release a technical report to the public as soon as possible. But the situation “is deplorable,” as NMAA’s deputy director José Alberto Seabra Carvalho told Portuguese daily Diário de Notícias. “The statue is very affected in the wings, in one arm and mantle. The damage is severe but reversible.” The museum will also consider installing a different plinth to display the work when it eventually returns to the gallery.
The museum did not name the culprit, but we did a little poking around, and the statue seems like a pretty popular selfie magnet this week …