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The destroyed Gabriel Rico work at OMR Gallery’s Zona Maco booth (courtesy of Galería OMR)

A glass sculpture by artist Gabriel Rico on view at Zona Maco art fair this weekend shattered to pieces when Mexican art critic Avelina Lésper tried to place a soda can on one of its protruding stone elements. According to a statement released by Galería OMR, which was exhibiting the work in its booth, Lésper planned to take a picture of the Coca-Cola can resting on top of the conceptual sculpture in an attempt to critique it.

Lésper has since apologized for the incident and insisted it was accidental, but she has not denied her critical views of the piece. In a video produced for Milenio, the Mexican newspaper where she is a columnist, Lésper said the work collapsed when she tried to approach the empty soda can to the stone element.

“In that moment, as though it had heard my commentary and sensed what I thought about it, the work shattered,” she said. 

Gabriel Rico’s sculpture on view at OMR Gallery’s Zona Maco booth before it was destroyed (courtesy of Galería OMR)

As reported by Milenio, another artist present at the scene, Pavel Égüez, defended Lésper’s version of the story. “Avelina didn’t touch it,” he told Milenio.

“Although it seems to have been accidental and is irrelevant as to how it happened, the action of Ms. Lésper of getting too close to the work of art to put a can of soda on it and take a picture to make a criticism, had undoubtedly caused the destruction, and is above all, a huge lack of professionalism and respect,” said Galería OMR in its statement.

When a gallery representative approached Lésper and asked if she could pay for the damaged work, which was valued at $20,000, the critic said she offered to repair it herself or create an identical sculpture instead.

“This is something that happens all the time with these kinds of objects. They’re thrown in the trash, people eat them … it’s not a tragedy,” she explained in her video, apparently evoking Maurizio Cattelan’s duct-taped banana at Art Basel Miami Beach last year, which was eaten by a performance artist. 

“Give me the objects and images and measurements of the work and I’ll return it to you,” Lésper said she told the gallery. “That’s the nature of these objects, you can make them again.”

Gabriel Rico, “Nimble and sinister tricks (To be preserved with out scandal and corruption) I” (2018), glass, brass and different objects, 80 3/4 x 45 5/8 x 50 3/8 inches (photo copyright the artist and courtesy of Galería OMR, Mexico City)

The demolished sculpture, “Nimble and sinister tricks (To be preserved with out scandal and corruption) I” (2018), bears a curious resemblance to Marcel Duchamp’s seminal glass work “The Bride Stripped Bare by Her Bachelors, Even (The Large Glass)” (1915-1923). Duchamp’s sculpture also suffered damage when it was shattered during transit; ten years later, the artist repaired the broken fragments himself and found that he enjoyed the visible cracks in the mended surface.

Lésper claims she suggested a similar fate for Rico’s sculpture. “I told them they should show it as is; it’s part of the work’s provenance,” she said in her video. 

“We do not understand how an alleged professional art critic destroyed a work by one of the most outstanding artists of the moment. Gabriel Rico was selected for the Venice Biennale last year, within the official selection, with pieces in the Giardini and Arsenale,” read Galería OMR’s statement, shared in a press packet along with professional portraits of the artist and images of his past solo exhibition at the Aspen Art Museum. “He is one of OMR’s most sought-after artists by collectors and institutions of the moment.”

Correction 2/11/2020 11:53am EST: An earlier version of this article misspelled Lésper’s surname. We regret the error.

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Valentina Di Liscia

Valentina Di Liscia is a staff writer for Hyperallergic. Originally from Argentina, she studied at the University of Chicago and is currently working on her MA at Hunter College, where she received the...

7 replies on “Art Critic Destroys $20K Glass Sculpture at Zona Maco”

  1. “one of the most outstanding artists of the moment” – hmm – really ? Do you people really understand how foolish you look to some people (who love some artworks) but believe that Picasso & his ilk were laughing at you from day one? Humans are so prone to group think….all the silly agreeing with each other that something is wonderful simply because the others said so ??? – to me the pile of glass on the floor is every bit as authentic as the contrived nonsense that was the ‘artwork’ in the first place !

    1. The same was said about Van Gogh and the Impressionists before him.

      The point here is not even the “quality” of the art. It is the astonishing arrogance of this self-professed art critic, one so reactionary in her conservatism that she declares Duchamp and everything that has come since as “non-art”, including the entirely of video, installation and performance art. And she has no problem destroying an artist’s work: Under intense pressure, she apologized for the “accident” (while steadfastly refusing to pay for the damage) but nonetheless used the destruction as an excuse to further denigrate the artist, based on ideas that have been discredited for over a century.

      She is essentially a fascist right wing populist pretending to be an art critic. If I were the artist, I would sue her in court a la Whistler and Ruskin.

      1. Ridiculous comment. She said she’d remake it and she probably could: its just a sheet of glass, a twig, a stone with a basketball. Big deal. No skill involved.

    1. Unfortunately all the twerps that believe Art Forum and other organs of that impenetrable ilk. (Its a load of bollocks really but theres nothing like fooling a dickhead out of his money, innit?)

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